Terry Barnich, the savvy lawyer who steered Judy Baar Topinka to victory in the March primary, is missed by the campaign. It hired a replacement, the top aide to Senate Republican leader Frank Watson, but it is almost unheard of for a successful campaign manager to be replaced after a primary. And make no bones about it, Barnich was successful. He told the press he had to leave to take care of his personal businessand maybe thats right. But during the time he ran the campaign, he became a force for good. For one thing, hes a brilliant tactician; for a second, he can take the essentials of a campaign and boil them down to a workable strategy. A third: he is an uncommonly good advocate with the ability to phrase-make, matching ability to grasp details of government with an uncanny knack of putting an argument forth so voters can understand it. It comes naturally for Barnich but hes had great experience: he was general counsel to Jim Thompson, an adviser to Jim Edgar, a regulator and an entrepreneur who built a successful energy consulting business.
The word is that he may not have gotten along too well with Nancy Kimme who has been Topinkas longtime political assistant. Whether thats true or not, Barnish is missed. The gap was first noticed on primary election night when Topinka won. She was supposed to have delivered a victory statement that would contain the genesis of a vision for Illinois: just the thing she needed. But the speech was scrapped, unaccountably. Substituting it was the usual Topinka fireworks including the old barnyard cliché about this hen whos gonna deliver. The campaign has never had a vision statement from Topinka and she is slowly gaining the unenviable reputation as a time-server who doesnt have any. At least none came out in the debates and supposedly, all was going to change on election night when she would present a punchy yet substantive vision.
The shelving of the long-prepared vision statement was the first inkling that the era of Barnich had ended. The next was the famous interview with national columnist George Will where an aide to Topinka wisecracked that they want President Bush to raise money for them all right but he should come in the dark of night and raise it from a secure, undisclosed location. Very funny. The idea that an aide would have the temerity to say that while Topinka guffawed was stunning. An awkward apology followed the next day.
Nothing has been heard from Barnish publicly since then. A long search ensued for the successor with candidates purportedly vetoed by Kimme. Now a successor is on hand. Next there should be a full-time spokesman. S-l-o-w-l-y goes it. There is no strategy to work conservatives into the campaign; no strategy to dance away from the prospect of a tax hike. The prospect is growing that the accordion lady is more than a liberal on social issues: that she is a liberal on spending and taxing. She has refused to take any pledge against raising taxesthus the contrast is clear between she and Blagojevich. He will not impose a general tax hike; she wont say. My guess is that if Barnich had not left (either axed or made to feel so uncomfortable that he was grateful to have other things to do) he would have found ways to encourage some conservatives to get involved. After all, he is a social conservative cum pragmatist and an economic libertarian. Oh, well.