Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Personal Aside: Mike Madigan Did What He Had to Do for Lisa…Andy McKenna’s Doing What He Has to Do for Himself.


Jack Frank’s a nice guy and a friend but he can’t convince me that Mike Madigan screwed up Pat Quinn’s session by not raising taxes because he lost the power to convince his troops. Not anyone of Madigan’s leadership stripe. Tax hikes are not anathema to Dems as they are to Republicans or the general public. Madigan gave his step-daughter a golden opportunity for the nomination in 2010 and the general in November. There’s a thought that if Madigan wanted to harm Quinn he’d pass the tax hike—but in the Democratic primary, that wouldn’t be all that bad…and Lisa would take the hit for his stepfather’s okaying the hike.

So Quinn is left with a terrible problem—the worst of all possible worlds. He advocated a tax hike which is not popular but couldn’t get it enacted, thus disappointing the usual suspects who stand to benefit from one. And he has to cut back on services which will certifiably make him unpopular. This thing about Madigan being a statesman who wouldn’t countenance such a thing is Jack’s way of being nice to the Speaker—but no one who really knows Madigan believes he would place the well-being of the state ahead of family.

At the same time, Andy McKenna, the multi-millionaire heir seems to be playing the same game. The Republican state chairman, he’s got one thing going for him: he’s a gilt-edged member of the A-List, the group of business types who have the ability to raise double-digit funds for the 2010 ticket. The job of a state chairman is to use his acumen to recommend a ticket that can win. It’s a cinch that on the Senate side, Mark Kirk would be formidable (although his position on the social issues are so extreme, I can’t vote for him). Kirk might still chuck it as I originally predicted to run for reelection. But his divorce which threatened at one time to be nasty has turned amicable which removes one great liability.

Kirk for the Senate and Gidwitz for Governor would be a good beginning. I can see Gidwitz running as an anti-charisma candidate in the same sense that over in Indiana, Mitch Daniels…who’s about as cuddly as a buzz-saw…ran and got elected on a pledge to return that state to fiscal prudence. Daniels did so by applying strict economy and management expertise to a state long foundering in patronage—with his standing now at 60% popular.

I think the Mitch Daniels approach is the one that Gidwitz can take. Daniels whom I know quite well was a longtime aide to Dick Lugar and a high-ranking officer of Eli Lilly who joined the Bush II administration as head of OMB where he won the title “The Blade” because of his interest in cutting expenditures. When he ran for governor, few gave him a chance because he’s not a backslapper. But they didn’t reckon with the fact that Indiana decided it needed not a pretty boy but a doer. They got one.

That’s the same route Gidwitz can take--with an impressively improved gubernatorial campaign management team. My opinion of Kirk aside, Kirk and Gidwitz would be an impressive tie-in. But McKenna and the A-List are stuck on dead-center. The upshot may well be that no decision will be made in which case the list will be composed largely of so-so candidates. I personally think Kirk Dillard would be a good candidate although with the A-List stuck in neutral, he’d have to be a phenomenal fund-raiser to get competitive.

The reason the A-List is stuck in neutral is, I’ll bet anything, McKenna sees this as a chance for himself to emerge in the last act and run for governor. I think that would be a mistake for two reasons. First, McKenna would be misusing the office of state chairman for his own benefit were he to do it…and second, McKenna is as bland and non-persuasive on the stump as he is in person. No fire, no thrust.


  1. Tom, what explains your comfort level with pro-abortion candidates like Kirk and Gidwitz? Kirk is a RHINO and Gidwitz would seem to be one too. Where is the push to find and support solid, reform-minded Republicans who support the Right to Life? The Republican party needs new blood or it will continue to shrivel away.

  2. Governor Quinn should have kept his mouth shut on tax increases until both Madigans, Cullerton and Mayor Daley were all publicly onboard. Instead, he climbed out on a limb and Madigan sawed it off for Lisa's benefit. Realistically, what else could he have expected? I guess he drew the wrong conclusion from Governor Ogilvie's experience>