Sunday, September 25, 2005

If Something Happens to Blago, What Happens?

With U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald giving everybody the heebee-jeebies—and with him breathing down the neck of Gov. Rod Blagojevich—obviously political analysts are, in their private moments, ruminating as to what happens if something untoward happens to Blago. An initial reaction—that Attorney General Lisa Madigan would be eager to run for governor—has been weighed, evaluated and reckoned right-on, by some. Others, however, pose another scenario.

Those who look at things from Lisa’s own point of view say that she is not interested in running for governor—but for the U.S. Senate. To the obvious suggestion that the Senate post is filled by Sen. Dick Durbin, the response is that the senior senator is rather hapless right now. Given that the Gitmo speech was a horrendous mistake, they say that Durbin may well be convinced that his reelection would be in grave jeopardy in 2008. The obvious catastrophic mistake can be calibrated by the number of ghastly TV commercials that can be made by his opponent: the initial Gitmo talk that compares the American handling of detainees to tactics used by the Nazi and Pol Pot…the commercial showing Mayor Daley assailing Durbin’s remarks as an outrage…and the almost tearful Durbin apologizing on the floor of the Senate. Indeed, since Durbin’s talk can be presented as anti-patriotic, no matter what the temper of the electorate will be about Iraq in three years, he will be at a gross disadvantage.

The argument runs that Durbin may well have decided to pack it in and make some real money in 2008 when he will be 64. Some of her backers see Attorney General Madigan in that legislative role. Indeed, she would be a very formidable candidate. But this doesn’t answer the question: what happens if something happens to Blago? The regular Democratic party may well pick State Comptroller Dan Hynes, who is eager to become governor. But Hynes is not exactly the most electric presence on the block. Don’t overrule the Lieutenant Governor Patrick Quinn getting into the race. He will have nowhere to go and most Republicans (and many Democrats) feel he is a natural demagogue in the tradition of Ralph Nader, Huey Long and Floyd B. Olson. (Olson? Huh?)

For Republicans, running against Blago is to be heavily preferred to running against Hynes. But Hynes could be overcome. What is really scary for many GOPers is the prospect of running against Quinn. Quinn is a populist who can merchandise a campaign on very little money but with a sagacious sense of publicity. Saying he is shrewd on the stump doesn’t convey it very well. Somehow everybody who runs against Quinn seems to come out looking like a bad guy. True, he has many enemies in the Democratic party but has a knack for the grassroots that is truly phenomenal. That’s why Republicans are praying that Blago watches both ways before he crosses the street.

(Oh yes, about Floyd B. Olson. In the 1930s he was the gesticulating Farmer-Labor party governor of Minnesota with a mane of yellow hair who could sow discontent with the system even at a luncheon of multi-millionaires. Far more palatable than Long who was a disreputable sweaty prototype of Boss Hog, Olson was dissatisfied with FDR’s [to him] moderate ways and preparing to run against him in 1936 sweepstakes when he was struck down with cancer. Listening to his early recordings makes one feel that in contrast FDR was a tongue-tied boy).

1 comment:

  1. It's the Sun-Times' loss to discontinue Tom's column. Glad we can still read his analysis here.