February 6, 2013


The Chicago and Illinois media's spin about a Daley-Madigan brawl for governor in 2014 is sheer, abject, absolute nonsense. Next year's Democratic gubernatorial primary will be Daley-Madigan-Quinn, not a spat among Chicago's "First Families."

In fact, a three-candidate contest between former U.S. Commerce secretary and mayoral brother Bill Daley, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Governor Pat Quinn is Quinn's only avenue to victory -- and Illinois' marginally popular "Governor Panderer" should not be counted out.

A 2012 Public Policy Polling survey put Quinn's approval/disapproval numbers at 40/43 percent among Democrats and a lot lower among the entire electorate. A January We Ask America poll had Quinn at 37/42 among Democrats. Quinn is perceived as an inept leader and a hopeless vacillator. Any other governor, with that unpopularity, facing certain 2014 defeat, would be writing his retirement speech. Not Quinn. Whatever his shortcomings, which are legion, he is not a quitter, and he expertly panders to the Democratic base. A solid 35 to 40 percent of that base, which includes liberals, blacks, gays, Hispanics, those dependent on state government and public sector unions, would be enough to enable Quinn to win a three-candidate primary.

"He's going to run," one Democratic strategist said. "Why should he quit? He's the governor. He has a political base. He has name recognition. He has a reasonable amount of campaign cash. And he has incredible luck. He stumbles to victory because his flawed opponents are easy to defeat."

Quinn won the 2010 Democratic primary against wooden and uncharismatic Dan Hynes, then the state comptroller, 462,049-453,677, a margin of 8,372 votes. He then beat the too-conservative Republican nominee, Bill Brady, 1,745,219-1,713,385, a margin of 31,834 votes. Normally, the calculus of political success is right time, right place, right message. For the ubiquitous Quinn, a chronic campaigner who over the past 30 years has run for six offices, lost four times and won five times, the ticket to success has been consistent: have the right opponent. Quinn wins when his opponent is woefully flawed and incapable of prevailing; otherwise he loses, as he did to George Ryan in 1994, to Dick Durbin in 1996 and to Mary Lou Kearns in 1998.

The We Ask America poll focused on the 2014 primary, and it had fascinating results: In a one-on-one Madigan-Quinn race, Quinn loses 50-25 percent, with a quarter of the vote undecided. In a Madigan-Quinn-Daley race, the results were 37-20-15 percent, with 28 percent undecided. In other words, Daley takes votes away from Madigan, whittling her down to the one-third threshold. The anti- or non-Quinn vote is in the realm of 75 to 80 percent.

If Madigan takes a pass, Daley, running as the "Anybody But Quinn" candidate, would surely win, but if the primary is "Two Against Quinn," the governor is not eliminated. There are a lot of red flags. As the attorney general who has compiled a stellar record in civil prosecutions and who was re-elected in 2010 with 64.7 percent of the vote, by a stupendous margin of 1,225,296 votes, Madigan should be a slam dunk for governor in 2014. Likewise for Daley, who has credentials up the proverbial kazoo. However, Madigan's baggage is her father, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. The perception is that two Madigans having too much power is too intolerable.

As for Daley, the perception is that his candidacy is too little, too late. Were he running when his big brother was Chicago mayor, he'd have familial baggage, but also Chicago clout. Now he's just another wannabe, a defrocked nobleman whose time has passed, who barely registers a sixth of the vote.

If all three of them run, it will be like the infamous Byrne-Daley-Washington Democratic mayoral primary in 1983 which led to Harold Washington's 36.3 percent triumph and to Rich Daley being condemned as a spoiler. Bill Daley could be 2014's spoiler.

The 2014 election will be a "battle of the bases" -- geographic, ideological, racial and gender. The overriding issue, given Illinois' dire fiscal straits, will be competency and delivery. All three contenders are Chicagoans. Quinn will position himself as the populist "real Democrat," Madigan will campaign as the "most electable" Democrat, and Daley will pose as the "most competent" Democrat. Platitudes and imagery will be paramount.

Quinn, despite his "Governor Jell-O" reputation, will be the implacable status quo, no-cuts, raise-taxes, spend-and-borrow-more candidate. Quinn's solution to the state's crisis situation is to ignore it. The $96 billion in unfunded pensions? Later. The $5 billion in unpaid vendors? Borrow more. If that doesn't suffice, raise taxes on the rich and on corporations. Quinn's for gay marriage, for driver's licenses for illegal aliens, and for maintaining, if not increasing, state spending for social services, because they're all "essential." As for state workers affiliated with the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, there will be no right to work, no pension cuts and no work rule changes.

Madigan got to where she is because of her surname and her DNA, but she has remained there because of her competence, not "Big Daddy." Like Hillary Clinton, Madigan would have enormous gender appeal, and she would run especially well among women in upscale suburban areas and along the Lakefront. Women cast a majority of the Democratic primary vote, but almost 60 percent of those women are black or Hispanic. Madigan has no especial appeal to minorities, and "Big Daddy" has virtually none.

Because of her office, but more likely because of her father, Lisa Madigan has $3.3 million in her campaign account, and she can easily raise the $5 million to $7 million more she needs to run a savvy media campaign for governor.

In 2002, in her only contested statewide primary, Madigan beat John Schmidt, the 1998 gubernatorial candidate, a onetime Daley chief of staff and a former associate U.S. attorney general, 698,250-501,190, getting 64 percent of the vote and winning by a margin of 197,060. She won Cook County by 134,182 votes, due to the muscle of her father, the Daley machine and the predominantly black wards. Next year she will stand on her record.

Daley, the youngest of the Baby Boomer "Daley Clan" brothers, is a veritable "Paladin" -- Have brains, will travel. He's been a lawyer, an investment banker, a U.S. cabinet official and the White House chief of staff. He is brainy but soft-spoken, nonideological and charisma-free. He engenders neither passion nor animosity. Anywhere but Chicago, Daley would be a Republican. Running as "Mr. Fix-It," he has appeal to Illinois' 7.5 million registered voters but not to half or more of the 1.2 million to 2 million Democratic primary voters, who, like Quinn, want to perpetuate the current situation, not "fix" it. For them, a "fix" means less money in their pocket.

Daley's problem: He and Lisa Madigan share the same base among anti-Quinn, non-black, pragmatically liberal and Southwest Side Chicago voters, and the Daley name is no longer magic.

So he has a strategic quandary: Whom to attack? If he goes negative on Quinn, ripping his incompetence, he drives down Quinn's support but does not necessarily corral votes from Madigan. If he goes negative on Madigan, pounding on the idea that Illinois does not need two Governors Madigan, he splits the anti-Quinn vote but shaves none from the governor.

The 2014 governor's race is a win-lose situation for Quinn, a win-lose situation for Madigan, and a lose-lose situation for Daley. Quinn has nothing to lose except his job. Madigan has everything to lose, especially her job, and if she wins, she (and Mike Madigan) will have to raise taxes, risking his House majority. Daley surely understands that, in the remote event that he is nominated, he will not be elected.

The 2010 primary is a template for 2014. Against Hynes, a Lakefront resident whose powerful father, Tom Hynes, was a longtime Daley ally and the Far Southwest Side 19th Ward boss, Quinn ran his usual dysfunctional, disorganized, underfunded campaign, but he won 42 of 50 city wards, 165,283-154,277, in a turnout of 339,560. Quinn won 10 Northwest Side wards 35,719-33,759, six North Lakefront wards 23,518-19,059 and 20 black-majority wards 87,959-58,466, even though Hynes ran ads with footage of Washington calling Quinn, who briefly was the city revenue director, "undisciplined" and his "worst mistake." Black voters remember that Tom Hynes ran for mayor against Washington in 1987. As they say, "The sins of the father . . ."

Quinn won eight Hispanic-majority wards 15,616-13,575. In the Southwest Side 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 19th and 23rd wards, which are trending Hispanic and where the Daley/Madigan/Burke/Hynes/Lipinski machine dominates, Quinn lost 22,479-27,081, but he won the 14th and 23rd wards. Next year the 13th (Mike Madigan) and 14th (Ed Burke) wards will back Lisa Madigan and the 11th (John Daley), 19th (Matt O'Shea) and 23rd (Bill Lipinski) wards will back Bill Daley, thereby splitting the anti-Quinn vote.

Quinn won the Cook County suburbs with majorities in black townships 138,971-109,898, getting 55.8 percent of the vote. He took Cook County by 40,079 votes, and he narrowly won DuPage, Lake and Kane counties, but he lost the McHenry County and Will County and Downstate by 31,707 votes.

How does 2014 shake out? In 2010, following Rod Blagojevich's impeachment, Quinn had a residue of goodwill. That's dissipated. His governing style is inconsistent, almost nonexistent. He gets no respect in the General Assembly. There is Quinn fatigue, but he's a panderer extraordinaire, and he has a 25 to 35 percent primary base. If Daley and Madigan both run, Quinn can win. If only one runs, Quinn is toast.