December 12, 2007


The biggest obstacle for state Attorney General Lisa Madigan in her anticipated 2010 quest for the governorship is her father, not the governor.

There's no doubt that Madigan would win a Democratic primary against beleaguered incumbent Rod Blagojevich, but there's growing doubt that her father, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, will give up his powerful post in order to stifle voter misgivings about the "Land of Lincoln" becoming the "Land of the Madigan Monarchy."

Should Lisa Madigan win, a father-daughter team would occupy two of Illinois' three most powerful positions. Blagojevich, hoping voters will forget that he's governor because of his family ties, would excoriate Lisa as Mike's "puppet." Think of his ads: "Do you want a governor who does what Big Daddy tells her? Or a governor who stands up to Big Daddy?" Or: "Madigan and Madigan. Too much power."

The presumption in Springfield has been that Mike Madigan, with an increased House Democratic majority and after the 2009 legislative session, would resign as speaker in mid-2009. He would remain a state representative and the state Democratic chairman, continue to strategize legislative battles with archenemy Blagojevich, and focus on his daughter's campaign.

Now, according to Springfield sources, that's unlikely. "Iron Mike" will not quit. He's 65 years old, has been in the House for 37 years, and has been the speaker for 23 of the past 25 years. His love of his job and power eclipses his hatred for Blagojevich and his desire to make his daughter governor.

A new scenario is germinating: Lisa Madigan could run for the Illinois Supreme Court in 2010, when the terms of 1st District (Cook County) Justices Charles Freeman and Thomas Fitzgerald expire; if one or both retire, she would easily win a Democratic primary, and if a Democrat occupies the White House, she would be on a short list of potential U.S. Supreme Court appointees. Meanwhile, Mike Madigan would back state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the primary against Blagojevich, and state Comptroller Dan Hynes would run for Lisa Madigan's spot as attorney general.

The outlook: If a Republican wins the presidency in 2008 and Blagojevich's popularity continues to tank, the Madigans might as well go for the kingdom. Otherwise, it will be Justice Madigan.

Illinois' Republicans have a different scenario: "Looking for Bobby Jindal," which is not a sequel to "Looking for Mr. Goodbar."

      Jindal, Louisiana's Republican governor-elect, stressed the issues of competence and honesty in a state where corruption, cronyism and ineptitude are the norm. Jindal, in a field of 12 candidates, won a solid 54-percent victory in October.

      Like Louisiana, Illinois is awash in corruption. Former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards is in a federal prison, as is former Illinois governor George Ryan. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, is reviled as inept and incompetent due to her handling of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Illinois Governor Blagojevich, a Democrat, is reviled for his arrogance, ineptitude and mendacity. Blanco had the grace and perceptivity to retire. Blagojevich, whose poll numbers rank somewhere between abysmal and putrid, will run again in 2010.

      According to the November Glengariff Group poll, almost 52 percent of Illinoisans would vote to recall Blagojevich; 61.2 percent disapprove of his performance in office (of which 42 percent "strongly disapprove"), and an anemic 31.5 percent approve of his performance.

      Jindal is of Indian-American ancestry, converted to Catholicism in his youth, and is a congressman from the New Orleans suburbs. He ran as a fiscal conservative, demanding accountability on spending, and as a social conservative, opposing abortion, gay marriage and gun-control restrictions. He got 676,484 votes (48 percent of the total) in his 2003 bid for governor, in a turnout of 1,407,842. Democrats attacked his racial and religious background, and he lost heavily Protestant north Louisiana. But Jindal thereafter spent almost every weekend and congressional recess virtually living in Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport.

      In 2007 Jindal won with 699,672 votes (54 percent of the total), in a turnout of roughly 1,295,000, and he won all the north Louisiana parishes. Hurricane Katrina had an effect: Jindal's vote increased by only 23,188 votes over 2003, but his opponents' declined by roughly 135,000 as the black vote in New Orleans collapsed.

      In Illinois, the Republican vote in races for governor has collapsed. Jim Edgar was re-elected with 1,984,318 votes (63.9 percent of the total) in 1994. George Ryan was elected with 1,714,094 votes (51.1 percent) in 1998. Attorney General Jim Ryan got 1,594,960 votes (45.1 percent) in losing to Blagojevich in 2002. Judy Baar Topinka got 1,369,315 votes (39.3 percent) in 2006. From 1994 to 2006 the number of Republican gubernatorial votes cast declined by more than 615,000.

      Democrats control government in Illinois, Cook County and Chicago. The city's Hired Truck Program scandal has netted 46 convictions, and the feds are investigating county and state hiring. Corruption is epidemic. There should be a huge wave of public revulsion directed toward the Democrats, but George Ryan's very visible trial and sentencing has covered the Republicans with shame. They cannot now posture as the "reform" alternative.

      Looking to 2010, the Republican field is large but uninspiring. There is no Bobby Jindal. But elections with an incumbent are always a referendum on the incumbent. If Blagojevich is the 2010 nominee, then virtually any Republican would have a chance.

Here's the Republican field, in no particular order:

Ron Gidwitz: A millionaire Chicago businessman, Gidwitz got 80,068 votes (10.8 percent of the total cast) in the 2006 primary despite a lavish, self-funded $3 million direct-mail and television campaign. He is bland and boring, but he could get traction as an "honest and competent" candidate.

Tom Cross: The Illinois House minority leader, Cross, of Oswego, is one of Springfield's "Four Tops" and has major input into the current budget impasse but minimal name identification. Cross might sell himself as a "competent" governor, but he lacks funding. Cross and Gidwitz are running Rudy Giuliani's campaign in Illinois. In the 2010 primary expect them to be bracketed on the ticket: One will run for governor and the other for lieutenant governor, with Gidwitz paying the tab.

Dan Rutherford: The state senator from Pontiac ran for secretary of state in 2006, getting just 33.1 percent of the vote. He's now running Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Illinois, embellishing his social conservative credentials. The hard-core conservative vote in Republican primaries is 25 to 30 percent, as demonstrated by Pat Buchanan and Jim Oberweis, and that gives Rutherford a sizable base.

Bill Brady: The Bloomington state senator ran for governor in 2006 and got 18.4 percent of the vote in the primary. He is personable and baggage free, he is running Fred Thompson's campaign, and he may be the closest Republicans can get to Bobby Jindal. Brady hasn't stopped campaigning since 2006, and he is avoiding social issues and focusing on Blagojevich.

Jim Durkin: A state representative from southwest Cook County, Durkin ran for U.S. senator in 2002, getting 38 percent of the vote against Democrat Dick Durbin. Durkin is running the John McCain presidential campaign in Illinois. He could be credible as a 2010 reform candidate.

Andy McKenna: The Republican state chairman, McKenna is a self-funder who lost a bid for senator in the 2004 primary. McKenna's credibility in 2010 depends on how the Republicans fare in 2008. If Illinois is a disaster, McKenna will get the blame.

Steve Rauschenberger: The former state senator from Elgin was a fiscal hawk in Springfield for 14 years, and he ran for lieutenant governor in 2006 on a ticket with Gidwitz, running 122,000 votes ahead of Gidwitz. But he lacks a fund-raising base, which is why he hooked up with Gidwitz.

Joe Birkett: DuPage County's state's attorney since 1996, Birkett can run as a "tough prosecutor" who can "clean up the mess." That's how Jim Thompson, the crime-busting U.S. attorney, won the governorship in 1976. Birkett ran a credible race for state attorney general in 2002, losing to Lisa Madigan by 114,946 votes (with 47.1 percent of the total cast), and he acquitted himself well as Topinka's 2006 running mate for lieutenant governor. With Madigan going for governor or elsewhere, Birkett may opt to run for her job. The rap on Birkett is that he is stiff, unlikable and a social conservative, but Republicans know his name and appreciate his efforts.

Jim Oberweis: The Aurora dairy magnate whose anti-immigration, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and anti-gun control stance wins him plenty of admiration, lost primaries for U.S. senator in 2002 (getting 31.5 percent of the vote) and 2004 (getting 23.5 percent), and for governor in 2006 (with 31.7 percent of the vote). Now he's running for Congress in Denny Hastert's 14th District. If he wins, he'll be in Washington; if he loses, he's finished.

The Republicans' dream candidate for 2010 is U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, whose reputation for competence and incorruptibility would make him an easy winner for governor. But Fitzgerald won't run, so the Republicans' 2010 hope is that Blagojevich is the Democratic nominee, and that an anybody-but-Blagojevich Republican beats him