Friday, January 23, 2009

Could financial advantage overcome Blagojevich “millstone” in ’10 campaign?

For the sake of the Illinois Republican Party and anyone who has interest in a member of the GOP becoming governor from the 2010 elections, they ought to hope that Pat Quinn has a successful two years as governor.

By that, I mean that I am working under the assumption that it is just a matter of time before the Illinois Senate removes Rod Blagojevich from office, and it will fall to the lieutenant governor to finish the roughly two years remaining on Milorod’s second term in office.

AFTER LOOKING AT the sum totals offered in disclosure reports filed earlier this week with the Illinois State Board of Elections, it would appear that Quinn would be the weakest of any Democrat with dreams of winning election to his/her own four-year term in office.

There are many Republicans, and even some general political observers, who are operating out of the belief that any Republican candidate for governor, U.S. Senate, or any of the state constitutional offices has an advantage in 2010 because so many people are so disgusted by Blagojevich that they would be inclined to vote for anybody BUT a Democrat.

But when one looks at the likely list of Democratic Party members inclined to run for a top office in ’10, and compares it to the favorites of the Republican Party, it becomes apparent that the 2010 elections could very well be a repeat of ’06.

That was the election where Blagojevich got re-elected even though he had low approval ratings among the Illinois electorate and many enemies among government officials. But he had significant amounts of cash in his campaign fund, while GOP opponent Judy Baar Topinka had very little.

ROD CRUSHED JUDY early and often throughout the campaign, creating an image of the blunt-spoken, accordion-playing and fun-loving Topinka as some sort of corrupt politico in line with former Gov. George Ryan – ignoring the fact that many of the people who voted for Blagojevich were also the ones who backed Ryan’s gubernatorial bid in 1998 because they didn’t like the excessively rural tendencies of the Democratic Party’s nominee that year.

Just imagine what would become of the governor’s race in 2010 if it were to be a repeat of the 2002 campaign for Illinois attorney general – Lisa Madigan against DuPage County state’s attorney Joe Birkett?

The campaign disclosure reports filed this week indicate Madigan raised $1 million during the last six months of 2008, bringing her campaign fund as of Jan. 1 to $3.5 million.

By comparison, Birkett only had $44,676 in his campaign fund to start the year.

ADMITTEDLY, THERE IS just over one full year to raise money and campaign. I’m sure Birkett (who is bound to run for some office at or near the top of the Republican ticket) will significantly boost his campaign cash.

But so will Madigan. With that much of an advantage, we would soon get the image pumped down our throats of some right-wing nut who is a two-term loser (he failed in ’02 for attorney general and in ’06 for lieutenant governor).

Her campaign cash advantage could overcome any Blagojevich millstone effect.

When it comes to Democrats, it’s not even just those two.

ILLINOIS COMPTROLLER DAN Hynes (who failed previously at a bid for U.S. Senate, but may think he has a shot now that Barack Obama is no longer a local political factor) has $2.85 million in his campaign fund, while state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (who has the advantage of close ties to Obama) has $1.6 million.

By comparison, the most politically wealthy Republican official who is being considered for higher office could very well be Bill Brady. He’s a state senator from Bloomington in central Illinois, and he has the “grand total” of $331,000 on hand – although he also has existing debts from his past failed campaigns.

Then, there’s Doug Whitley, a politically-connected business executive who took a leave of absence from his job at the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce in order to have time to campaign.

During the past four months, he has raised about $85,000, and had $81,588 in the campaign account on Jan. 1.

DOES IT SEEM like anybody the Republicans put up is going to get buried in mounds of media mailings and other advertising, all meant to create an image of the GOP official as out of touch with the bulk of Chicago and Illinois residents? Does it sound very much like the Blagojevich millstone effect can be overcome?

It’s all too likely.

That’s why the Republicans ought to think about rooting for Quinn.

He began 2009 with only $83,000 in his campaign fund. A Quinn vs. Whitley gubernatorial campaign would be a pretty fair fight financially.

BUT THERE IS also the fact that Quinn has never had ample financing for any of his past campaigns. He’s used to doing things on the cheap, and he would have the benefit of incumbency – even if its incumbency due to completing the term of an impeached governor.

There’s also the fact that I recently heard a former prosecutorial type on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program who noted the fact that Quinn never has money likely is evidence that he’s an honest politico – nobody sees any need to waste money to “buy off” the guy who won’t be bought.

Now I’m not claiming that the Democrats have a shoo-in to victory for Illinois governor come 2010. I don’t know who will wind up getting the nomination for either political party.

I expect it to be a fully competitive campaign – and possibly one of the closest in Illinois history because some people will vote GOP because of Blagojevich. But if the Republican Party in this state is basing their hopes for winning the governor’s race solely on the fact that their guy isn’t Gov. Milorod, they could be in for disappointment come the day after the November 2010 general election.


EDITOR’S NOTES: There is still plenty of time for prospective candidates to raise (,0,2179038.story) campaign cash for a 2010 bid for Illinois governor.

Republicans are smelling blood in the water at the possible effect of a Blagojevich ( millstone in the 2010 elections for Illinois governor.

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