Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Topinkas Strategy: Stall for Time, Avoid Debates and Confrontation
Theres more than meets the eye to the lackadaisical non-response of State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka to the invitation from the City Club of Chicago to debate the issues with her colleagues who, like her, are running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. She is doing exactly what Gov. Rod Blagojevich is: remaining above the fray and indicating that the onerous job of governing is consuming her time. One thing is sure: if she has to face debates with conservatives, her slight polling lead will melt like a snow cone in July. Without a memorable confrontation she could just win the nomination by inches. Already its clear that shes not going to win this thing in a walk: even with two conservatives (and one liberal) running.
All the while, the media which are scorching Blagojevich for staying away from the fray do not mention that the accordion lady is pursuing the same strategy. Blagojevich has at least some semblance of an excuse: the governorship. The job of State Treasurer doesnt exactly rank up there with juggling the issues of war and peace. This is evidently the approved strategy for the hybrid Demi-publicans. Were Topinka to involve herself in a debate over issues with her primary opponents, her somewhat precarious lead could evaporate.
Running in a party with a base that has tired of the Jim Thompson, George Ryan nuzzling of Democrats and their interest groups, she knows she will not win if she faces her opponents early; indeed she may not win even if she faces Ron Gidwitz one-on-one whose supporters would normally be expected to come from her totals. Thats why Topinka only appears in media interviews where either there is no opposition or where the liberal news gatherers are in awe of her irrepressible personality. With the mainstream media having determined that Topinka is their candidate for now (after primary day they revert to their old Democratic ways), no one has the opportunity of asking what the onerous duties of Treasurer (a custodial job) are that prevents her from going before debate audiences.
The other day at the Schaumburg GOP when candidates were invited to make joint presentations, not debate, some were on hand early but no Judy. Finally, toward the end of the evening she appeared, the hope clearly being that they would have made their speeches and moved on. Then when she was asked why as State Chairman she did not support giving the man who ran second, Jim Oberweis, the nod for the U.S. Senate instead of Alan Keyes, she said that Oberweis made demands that could not be met: demands that required the White House to be involved in the campaign and to fork over large gobs of money, which was not in her power to satisfy.
But Oberweis had hung around to answer her version and declared that at no time did he put such a demand on the table. Was this encounter reported? I havent seen it. My guess is that Judy Baar Topinka will decline to debate at the City Club of Chicago on the basis that her exacting duties require her to be in Springfield to stand guard over the peoples money. Her hope is obvious: that the debate will go on without her and that the media will make brief and forgettable observation that she could not attend. Then shortly before primary day she may show up at a WTTW show with the script rigidly run by Phil Ponce who will ask her gently if she has been seeking to avoid confrontation. Her irrepressible answer will be in the form of a joke. That blip will pass all but unnoticed and her goal of avoiding a bruising battle with her colleagueswhere Republican philosophy will be airedwill be accomplished. Then if she and Blagojevich are nominated, she will immediately be everywhere, demanding debates, issuing challenges: the irrepressible Judy whose tactics we have all come to recognize.