Monday, March 6, 2006

Two Major Political Stories Today

# 2: The Trib’s Gidwitz-Rauschenberger Endorsement is a Blow to Topinka. That She’s Got the Sun-Times Nod was Expected.

No newspaper endorsement today—given the low estate that most newspapers have these days—is as important as it used to be. While the Tribune’s recommendation of Ron Gidwitz and Steve Rauschenberger is a surprise and definitely valuable to their campaign. The Sun-Times endorsement of Judy Baar Topinka was expected and it remains to be seen if the newspaper which has fast become the liberal Democratic publication in the city (moving from a kind of moderate liberal stance to a left-wing advocate) would give Topinka approval in the general where the Democratic candidate will be Rod Blagojevich.

About the Trib plug, one must recall that earlier management of the newspaper gave its presidential endorsement to Rep. John B. Anderson in 1980 and Anderson went on to carry 7 percent of the Republican electorate. That was the low-point in the newspaper’s 180 turnaround from its old paleo conservative days—a turnaround which it has deftly moderated in recent years.

However, having said that, there is no doubt that the Gidwitz-Rauschenberger team is strengthened and heartened by the endorsement as it should be. I have been a somewhat lonely prophet about Gidwitz, not endorsing him but saying all along that were he to become governor, he would likely be a great one, bolstered by a multi-millionaire’s not needing the job and a multi-millionaire’s wish to be remembered as a great governor, one tackling tough tasks even if it means he is defeated for reelection. His communications skills have greatly improved. I have been steadily impressed by his doughty nature. And the fact that he is devoid of the political arts of charm, baloney and oleaginous verbiage is a big boost in his favor, I think.

The second impact of the endorsement is that it is a body-blow for Judy Baar Topinka who had every right to expect an endorsement from the state’s biggest paper which radiates socially moderate Republicanism. So far Gidwitz has managed to steer clear of conservative attacks because of his social liberality. Now I would imagine his liberality would be played up by his conservative rivals—particularly Jim Oberweis. By playing it up, these conservatives will be advertising reasons for Gidwitz to take votes from Topinka. Tough fiscal candidate Gidwitz can soothe social conservatives by pleading that at this stage, with respect to abortion, a governor would not play as decisive a part as he would in earlier years, although he should be called upon to clarify a few things. First, if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade and send the issue back to the states, would a Governor Gidwitz play a major role in support of pro-abortion legislation here? Second, a question ignored up to now because Gidwitz’s chance were regarded as problematic: will Gidwitz support the Blagojevich “morning after” plan and embryonic stem cell research. The media have not asked him these questions. I have. (And I’m not telling; that’s for later).

If he says he will not take a pro-abortion stance outside of his earlier announced position and will leave Illinoisans to determine the issue themselves, he would be politically astute, resembling the Gov. Mitt Romney position when he ran in Massachusetts of several years ago (since then, running for president, he has changed). On the “morning after” issue, Gidwitz would sound reasonable if he denounced the high-handed way Blagojevich applied to it and said that legislation would be the only way to proceed, not executive order, but he would reserve passage or failure of such a measure to laissez faire.

Gidwitz has a powerful ally, one he has never used, in Henry Hyde who headed his exploratory committee. Hyde’s name is legend among social conservatives. If Hyde would say from the standpoint of long association with the Gidwitz family that Gidwitz would remain consonant with his personal opinion on abortion rights and not be an abortion crusader, it would be of enormous help. Enormous. But whether he can do that would depend on Gidwitz’s own views. If Gidwitz takes a personal pro-choice stand and says he will follow a “hands-off” stance basis the division of the state on the issue, it would be very wise. He shouldn’t worry about pro-choice fall-off as he would still occupy the middle course between Topinka and his social conservative rivals—and he must remember that in the general election, nobody—but nobody—is going to get the pro-abortion vote over Rod Blagojevich.

Having said this, the election is still totally up in the air—but I think it’s fair to surmise that Topinka’s star is declining. . A declining Topinka base and sharply or even slightly rising Gidwitz support, will start to level the field. Jim Oberweis could well move forward to take the lead under this scenario as the Topinka totals come down and the Gidwitz candidacy is assailed by Oberweis and Brady as pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Here’s the important thing that I find not sufficiently stressed by media moguls. The polls mean little in a primary. In a primary where organization means everything, Oberweis has the movement people who dominate grassroots organization: pro-lifers, 2nd Amendment people, home schoolers, anti-illegal immigration people. Oberweis has the organization. It doesn’t show in the polls, necessarily or in flashy TV commercials, but media pundits should avoid being mis-led by their personal politics and recognize that the heart and soul of the Illinois Republican grass-roots is socially conservative. This race can be compared to the 2004 presidential where while media savants pondered how effective John Kerry was on the stump, Karl Rove and Rich Mellman perfected a grass-roots organization that topped that of the Democrats.

Social conservative Bill Brady, who has just taken out a $250,000 loan may start capitalizing on any discontent with Oberweis if some conservatives believe he is not electable. All along, Brady has demonstrated the attractiveness on the stump to get the nomination; he has failed to raise the money and I don’t think his organization is very effective (notwithstanding his endorsement by the Illinois State Rifle Association).. Moreover as the Gidwitz endorsement gains currency, the news media will start recognizing that he is, in fact, a possible governor. Everybody seems a winner in this formulae except Topinka who, still leading because of her many years as a statewide candidate, has not shown the fiscal or governmental expertise to command the discussion on where Illinois should go. The Trib’s assessment of her weakness on substance in the editorial is devastating.

Finally, where are the media wise-guys who said the Illinois GOP is dead from the shoulders both ways? You’ve got an MBA business genius who built a small dairy business into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, who doubles as a prize-winning investment counselor…a mega-millionaire married to another mega-millionaire who built a cosmetics business into an international leader—tied to a Lieutenant Governor who is acknowledged as the legislature’s unrivaled expert on the budget and spending…a state senator who at 44 is regarded as one of the best communicators in the business…and a veteran female state treasurer with a wittily self-deprecating personality tied to a Lieutenant Governor candidate who is the best prosecuting attorney in Illinois.

Time for media to stop prattling conventional wisdom and get real.


  1. Tom, at the end of your show last night did you have a Freudian slip and endorse Claypool?

    I called in to ask about Peotone. I should have begun by asking what Claypool thought about the state legislature's recent attempt to reign in the use of eminent domain by municipalities to pass the property of unwilling sellers to private parties for economic development. Why stop with municipalities? Is that what the state intends to do to property owners in the Peotone Int'l footprint?

  2. I had been vacillating on Gidwitz for some time in regards to Gidwitz. He is anything but flashy and didn't initially present well, which obscured his positions on the issue. Starting with his appearance on Fox News' local show with Jack Conaty and folliwing through to his appearance on your show last week, he is beginning to show a spine and personality. I agree he could be a formidable Governor if he moderates his social agenda.

    The Sun-Times iced the issue for me, their endorsement of JBT showed us that she is truly a liberal.

    I offer my take on the race here:

  3. In the Crook County Early Elections on the NW Side. If the machine didn't already delete my ballot, my vote will be counted for Jim Oberweis and Steve Rauschenberger. I think Oberweis has the best chance to defeat JBT among the two conservatives. I like Steve as the top choice as Lt. Gov (and Joe Burkett is DOA in this state after running with JBT). I hope Oberweis or Gidwitz can pull this off.

    Also, is JBT less pro abortion than the current governor? Based on what I have seen to date, Judy Baar Topika supports every abortion position Rod supports.

    In a general, pro life voters will have no option so many will either stay home.

  4. Tom, you know how much I have admired your excellent writing on behalf of conservative principles for nearly 30 years.

    So it pains me to take you to task on your puffery for Oberweis and your minimization of Bill Brady's campaign.

    First, Bill now has more newspaper endorsements than Oberweis. In addition to the ISRA, Brady has also garnered more than 27 separate endorsements by elected officials, Republican organizations, and civic groups. These endorsements represent real groups who will do real battle on the streets and in the precincts for Brady.

    Accordingly, you have overstated the "movement" support for Oberweis and the extent of any precinct organization working for him. He has some, but it is a shadow of the ground forces working for Brady, particularly downstate. And let's not forget that the primary is held in the midst of the St. Patrick's Day season, and Brady's good Irish name (he's the only Irish Catholic in the race in either party) and second spot on the ballot will serve him well in the polling place.