Saturday, October 2, 2010

Will Cook County Democrats do to Brady what they did to O’Malley back in ‘96?

Various polls coming out in recent days show that the campaign for Illinois governor has suddenly become a close race. All those people who want to think that Pat Quinn was political pulp are now anxiously wondering if he has a chance to win come Nov. 2.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Quinn himself issued a statement that tells us how Republican opponent William Brady’s early lead has “evaporated,” because people are learning that “Senator Brady is not on their side.” Depending on which poll one wants to believe, Quinn and Brady are either virtually tied, or the governor is actually slightly ahead.

NOW I’M NOT about to get into the merits of debating which pollsters know what they’re talking about and which ones are so tainted by ideology that no one of sense should trust a word they say.

All that is really happening, and since so many different poll-takers are coming up with similar results I am inclined to trust them, is that Chicago is asserting itself. The real question is whether or not the city will assert itself enough come Election Day for Quinn to actually win.

That is something we won’t find out until the early hours of Nov. 3.

It is no surprise to me that polls show Brady to be the overwhelming favorite of voters who live in the parts of Illinois that lie outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. For them, this election cycle is about dumping any government official who has ties to the Chicago area – which is why state Senator Brady of Bloomington does well, and the ideologues of the GOP privately wish they weren’t stuck with Mark Kirk of the North Shore or Judy Baar Topinka of Riverside.

THEIR COOK COUNTY roots are too close to Chicago for ideological comfort.

But I have always believed that if Chicago and the inner suburbs turn out in strength on Election Day, it won’t matter how large a voter margin Brady gets over Quinn in places like McLean, Macoupin or McDonough counties.

state Sen. William Brady

It is that we have a knee-jerk Democrat reaction here in Cook County – the county that comprises about 45 percent of Illinois’ population. If we turn out, our preferred candidate will win. If we don’t turn out, then our candidate loses – and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

It was a lesson I learned back in 1996 from, of all things, the campaign for State’s Attorney of Cook County. In that election cycle, the incumbent was Republican Jack O’Malley, who really hadn’t done anything to infuriate the people of Cook.

I REMEMBER EVERY single poll all the way down to the wire showed O’Malley with a lead over the Democratic challenger, a long-time Daley family loyalist named Richard Devine – who at the time was running the Chicago Park District board.

Devine was portrayed in that first election as some sort of Daley lackey who was mere ballot filler to run a token campaign against the lone Republican who held elective office in Cook County government.

Yet come that Election Day when Bill Clinton easily defeated Bob Dole for president, so many people gave their knee-jerk vote for a Democratic candidate that Devine actually beat O’Malley by a sizable margin. What happened was that many of our local voters who likely had nothing against O’Malley personally and told polls of that fact wound up voting for the Democrat, just because that’s the way things are done in Chicago.

I realize that this is not a presidential election year to help lure people to the polling places. By and large, Quinn himself has to be the attraction for the Democratic candidates. Which means that not only does he need to give us the "scare tactics" against Brady, he also has to give us a good reason why we should vote for him.

BUT IT MAKES me wonder if we’re going to see people doing the exact same thing – telling poll-takers one thing for all these months, but then showing up at the voter booths to automatically vote “Democratic.”

For those people who will try to argue that this is a sad phenomenon, I’d say it is no different than the many people from outside of Chicago who give the same knee-jerk reaction in favor of anything associated with “Republican.”
It means those polls of the past that would have you think this was going to be a loss for Quinn of historic proportions were some downstater’s wildest fantasy. They never had any basis in reality. That is what is being reflected in the current round of polls.

This state is heavily influenced by Chicago and its suburbs (which comprise about two-thirds of the overall population). Which means those people who think this is going to be a political revolution led by people in Chebanse, Towanda and Versailles are a little off.

IF ANYTHING CAUGHT my attention out of the polls, it was the one done for the Chicago Tribune that says Quinn has totally wiped out the lead that Brady once held in the outer suburbs of places like DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties.

I’m not sure I believe that fact (a part of me suspects those people who live on the fringes of metro Chicago would be most likely to side with their rural Illinois counterparts in voting against anything Chicago-oriented).

But if it is true, then perhaps we do have a chance to see Sheila Simon become the first daughter of an Illinois lieutenant governor to become lieutenant governor herself.


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