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Why and where Pat Quinn won

Monday, Nov 15, 2010

* My syndicated column was taken from an explanation to subscribers last week of why and where Pat Quinn won the gubernatorial election

One of the very top officials in Bill Brady’s campaign told me a few days after the election that he believes Brady lost to Gov. Pat Quinn for one reason: The pro-choice group Personal PAC.

Brady’s election-day model, the top campaign official said, had him taking 43 percent of the suburban Cook County vote. Instead, Brady took only 40 percent. That extra 3 points definitely would have won race for the abortion opponent Brady.

“The North Shore went to hell,” this uppermost Brady operative added, blaming Personal PAC’s mail, TV ads and robocalls for the loss.

A look at Cook County results showed that Brady vastly underperformed the numbers of Republican Mark Kirk, an abortion rights supporter, in several northern Cook townships. Kirk is a north suburban resident, so he was expected to somewhat outperform Brady. Yet Kirk won New Trier Township by 4,535 votes, while the anti-abortion Brady won it by just 537. The pro-choice Kirk won Northfield by almost 7,000 votes to Brady’s 1,325-vote margin.

And it wasn’t just the North Shore. Kirk more than doubled Brady’s winning margins in Schaumburg, Wheeling, Maine and Lyons townships. The same basic pattern played out in all the suburban collar counties as well.

Personal PAC CEO Terry Cosgrove told me he focused his group’s mail and robocalls almost solely on suburban women who voted in the last two general elections, but who didn’t vote in any primaries. That way, Cosgrove said, he could aim his message at what he believed were “very middle of the road, average suburban women.” He also included in his list 170,000 pro-choice Republican women whom his group had identified in suburban state legislative races over the years.

“I knew if we could get enough of those suburban women, that’s where victory was,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said his media buyer’s research showed he could find those same “average” women voters via the early morning news and daily TV talk shows. “We were on every single network TV station in the–morning through 4 o’clock,” he said. Cosgrove said Personal PAC spent $100,000 on TV the day before the election alone, figuring that he could catch busy, preoccupied women who were just about to make up their minds.

Cosgrove also determined early on that independent millionaire Scott Lee Cohen would help Quinn. “I didn’t care if they went for him because it wasn’t a vote for Brady,” he said.

“This race was a referendum on Pat Quinn,” Cosgrove continued, saying that he viewed it the same as a multi-candidate primary. Relative unknowns often split the “anti” vote in those primaries. Cosgrove figured Scott Lee Cohen would do the same. He was right.

Were there other important factors in this race? Absolutely. Organized labor and the Democratic ground game helped push Chicago’s turnout well above 2006 levels. The Brady Campaign - the gun control group, not the candidate - most certainly helped pit many of those aforementioned suburban voters against Bill Brady.

But it’s no secret that Personal PAC is infinitely more sophisticated with its messaging than its counterparts on both the left and the right. The best example of this is one of the group’s mass mailers featuring a photo of a middle-aged couple on the front. “My husband might not have made it,” the mailer began. “Prostate screening saved his life. Who would vote against that?” Brady voted against a bill mandating prostate cancer screening.

The idea behind the mailer, Cosgrove said, was to get women to talk to their husbands about Bill Brady. About one man in six are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and that rate is far higher among older men. The mailer was designed to play on an almost universal fear.

The group also is much more willing than typical candidates to use harshly blunt messages in its advertising. Cosgrove, for instance, said that men are more amenable to his abortion messaging when they’re reminded of their daughters. So, his TV ad featured a young woman who talked about how she was raped at age 18, saying she wouldn’t know what she would have done had she become pregnant. The rest of the ad featured photos of very young women along with the message that Brady was against abortion in cases of rape and incest. The idea was to drive the message home that this was about daughters. It worked.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - titan - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:17 pm:

    That this worked so well is something of an indicator that people don’t understand how government works. Brady would have had no power with regard to abortion - the US court deemed it a constitutional right, and the legislature has some small say in funding matters - but the Governor really has essentially no power in this area.

  2. - dave - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    @titan - that isn’t completely true. While a Brady administration wouldn’t have been able to outlaw abortion, he absolutely could have had an impact on access to abortion.

    Look around the country - there is a reason that there are a wide variety of abortion statutes depending on the state.

  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    dave is correct.

  4. - shore - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:35 pm:

    The north shore was not the problem for brady. Brady was the problem for brady.

    If you look at the breakdown for 2 other republicans who won governors mansions in the last year-conservative christie and ultraconservative and pat robertson protege mcdonnell, both cleaned up in the suburbs.

    Brady on the other hand had no suburban strategy, no ideas, no campaign. Part of getting elected is asking people for their vote and trying to win it. Putting tv ads up is not enough.

  5. - OneMan - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:41 pm:

    You sure it wasn’t just that people had something against millionaires who take deductions running statewide?

  6. - IrishPirate - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:43 pm:

    You had two basically unelectable candidates in the governor’s race.

    It just turns out that Brady’s anti abortion stance and the better democratic ground game cost him the election.

    If the GOP wants to keep nominating right wing candidates for statewide office that’s fine with me. I’m a congenital democrat.

    If the GOP wants to win statewide office start finding some Kirk like moderates without the need to puff up the resume.

  7. - Jeff - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:45 pm:

    So instead of electing a governor who might have been able to slightly reduce access to abortions, we elected the guy who has proven unable to pay the agencies responsible for the developmentaly disabled. Sometimes life gives you really terrible choices.

  8. - OneMan - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:47 pm:

    or perhaps it was Pat Quinn brilliant strategy guy?

  9. - Phil - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:48 pm:

    I am glad Juan Ochoa will on be heading to Team Brady.

  10. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:56 pm:

    @ Jeff–what it comes down to is I couldn’t vote in a manner that would have led to a Brady victory. I don’t want the governor of the state to be in such complete disagreement with my fundamental values. So I held my nose and voted against Brady by voting for Quinn. If I hadn’t cared so much for keeping Brady out, I would have voted for my real candidate, Rich Whitney.

  11. - Excessively Rabid - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 12:56 pm:

    Can this be over now? Isn’t the point of having an election that we only have to hear about one of them?

  12. - Segatari - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:04 pm:

    In truth…FEAR was the only reason Pat Quinn got reelected. Pathetic. This just confirmed again how unintelligent the people of Chicago are yet act so superior to everyone south of I-80.

  13. - Wally - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:10 pm:

    So, Brady voted against a bill “mandating” prostate cancer screening. Hmmmm.

    How about, I am a male, I am 40+, I am going to be responsible for myself and my family, and get a prostate exam at my next doctor appointment and get a PSA.

    Oh, I forgot, a lot of people don’t want to take responsibility for their actions and thus need the government to mandate it. And, if they don’t, let’s hold it against a politician who voted against the mandate and for personal responsibility.

    OK, I got it.

  14. - Loop Lady - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:11 pm:

    Brilliant strategy by Cosgrove…many of my female friends who were less than enamored of Quinn were horrified to learn of Brady’s regressive stances on womens issues including abortion, lo cost mammograms, and equal pay held their nose, and voted Quinn…

  15. - IrishPirate - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:11 pm:


    we is very uninteligent nohrth of I-8ay.

    I guesz having a Governor who would oposes abortion in any instantce ofends uz.

    We wet ferr rule the daylight.

  16. - Aldyth - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:14 pm:

    It was predicted here months ago that elections are won and lost based on the votes of suburban women. Kudos for pointing that out.

  17. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:15 pm:

    ===It was predicted here months ago ===

    That’s nothing new. I and others have been saying it ever since Jim Edgar won in 1990.

  18. - chiatty - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:19 pm:

    It’s amazing to remember just how slim Brady’s primary win was over Dillard. It makes you wonder whether Dillard might have been able to beat Quinn. I know Brady did very well downstate, but Dillard probably would have made up that difference in the suburbs. Come to think of it, Quinn barely beat Hynes. I’m thinking Hynes would have had an easier path to victory over Brady.

    Thinking out loud, I guess I’m only saying that the wrong men won the primaries.

  19. - chiatty - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:22 pm:


    Easy, Charlie. Everybody pushes the fear button in politics. There are just fewer of y’all to frighten south of I-80!

  20. - Wally - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:25 pm:

    And the wrong Democrat won the 2002 primary. We’ve witnessed how that turned out!

  21. - Nearly Normal - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:33 pm:

    I thought the “mandating” about prostate screenings had to do with insurance companies. The law requires health insurance policies to pay for prostate screenings just as there is a law that requires insurance companies to pay for mammagrams.

    And, if you looked at who paid into Brady’s campaign you will see quite a large number of insurance execs–and others with ties to workman’s comp insurance–paying big time into Brady’s cammpaign. (Brady talked about reforming workman’s comp just like his big business donors wanted.)

  22. - Wally - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:40 pm:

    Yeah Near Normal, cause we all know WC is just wonderful in the state of Illinois and needs no reform.

    And what about all that union loot that got kicked into the Quinn campaign. Any strings attached to that?

  23. - chiatty - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 1:57 pm:


    Everybody knows that every aspect of business that insurance companies do requires “reform” so they can make more money.

  24. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 2:07 pm:

    Brady lost for so many reasons and when the election is so close anyone can pick their poison. It certainly doesn’t help that he gets virtually no black support. He lost the hispanic vote woefully. Lost the union vote. Lost the womens vote.

    He did get the gun toton angry white male votes along with the stump jumpers which almost carries the day.

  25. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 2:12 pm:

    Sounds like a lot of Quinn voters are sounding a bit defensive over their vote. Including several “hold you nose” type of posters.

    You won! Enjoy your victory! Be proud of what you helped achieve! Think of the rosy future Illinois will have with Quinn steering the ship of state!

    I’ve never seen so many celebrants with their eyes gazing towards their belly buttons!

  26. - Mary, Sterling - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 2:15 pm:

    Phin: don’t forget the puppy-gasser votes!

  27. - chiatty - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 2:31 pm:

    @ Louis:

    There’s not a lot to celebrate. He was a weak candidate. He barely won over a demonstrably weaker candidate, but he gets one of the toughest jobs in government. It’s a case of “Be careful what you ask for.” If you need a reference for that saying, just check with our president who was handed a crap sandwich and was told to start chewing…

  28. - Statesman - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 2:39 pm:

    ======Brady on the other hand had no suburban strategy, no ideas, no campaign. Part of getting elected is asking people for their vote and trying to win it. Putting tv ads up is not enough.

    Arguably- North of I-80 this played out more than once.

    …Or we can go back to the original sin- a free for all in the primary because candidate hubris is one thing that is plentiful in the ILGOP. Betcha JBT had a deja vu on her last battle with Blago. History repeating itself over and over=ILGOP.

  29. - Loop Lady - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 2:44 pm:

    Louis- I never doubted Quinn’s victory, or his ability since he took over from RBB. I am gazing ahead…not down below…

  30. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 3:02 pm:

    I would say our president was not “handed a crap sandwich;” I would say he worked very hard to be at the front of the line to order it. No one is forced into running for the executive office, the president and McCain both wanted it, same as the governor and Brady. I am not sure what the rationale for wanting the executive office is, but the cost/benefit analysis must have been ignored.

  31. - Joe from Joliet - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 3:09 pm:

    =FEAR was the only reason…=

    Right on, Seg. Brady told everyone he was going to cut healthcare, education, social programs, early childhood & senior programs and more. He was just downright crabby. So, four more years of demoralized chaos.

    It would be nice to see a report showing how Quinn’s tax increase will affect individuals vs the cost of a mamogram and/or prostate screening.

  32. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 3:22 pm:

    –In truth…FEAR was the only reason Pat Quinn got reelected. Pathetic. This just confirmed again how unintelligent the people of Chicago are yet act so superior to everyone south of I-80. –

    Yeah, best GOP year nationally in nearly a century and somehow the Illinois GOP comes up short. It must be somebody else’s fault — oh wait, accountability is a virtue. Certainly, Segatari, you must be for that?

    Keep playing that South of I-80 card, too. That’s brilliant. Because most people live north of I-80. And in elections, you try to get the most votes…. but I don’t have to tell an Einstein like you that.

  33. - Bubs - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 3:27 pm:

    Brady was only two points behind Kirk in the liberal City of Chicago, and Brady did better than he expected there. That would seem to validate the point of the article, since on its face the City was not targeted by Personal PAC.

    But GOP women in the City reported getting the women-oriented negative robocalls as well. They were reportedly very harsh, but it ain’t beanbag one day before the election.

    There also was a good “ground effort” for Brady in the City (for Republicans, anyway.) Not sure how much went on for Brady in the suburbs. Ground games count.

  34. - Bubs - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 3:38 pm:

    Statesman, the percentages are similar between 2006 and 2010 in Cook County.

    Quinn pulled almost exactly the same percentage in the suburbs as Blago did, but Brady was 2 points ahead of Topinka. In the City, Quinn polled two points less than Blago, and Brady was two points better than Topinka (which is surpiorsing given her moderate leanings).

    Higher turnout, however, meant that the overall Democratic plurality coming out of Cook County was only 11,000+ votes lower than in the Democratic “landslide” of 2006.

    That says a lot.

  35. - Statesman - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 3:56 pm:

    =====since on its face the City was not targeted by Personal PAC.

    The robo calls started 3 weeks out to all registered women voters in the City/Cook Cty. This goes back to the fact that when the original attack ads came out from the PQ camp- it took the Brady camp 4-6 weeks for talking points.

    4-6weeks! That’s some paid crack campaign staff. Add that to being lulled into being comfortably numb by the all the polling hoopla and you have a lean PQ victory.

    “You may be done with history, but history may not be done with you.”

  36. - Anonymous ZZZ - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 4:47 pm:

    Bubs, if you think Brady had a good ground game in Chicago, you’re probably the only one I’ve seen on this blog who does. I live in the City and I never got a single call from the Brady campaign and don’t recall seeing any mailers, either. On the other hand, I was bombarded by calls and mailers on behalf of Quinn (mostly from AFSCME).

  37. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 5:03 pm:

    The north suburban Cook County township Republican organizations for the most part are a joke. There is very little organization and pathetic leadership. New Trier’s committeeman has lost focus and intrest, Palatine’s got their own agenda, the Northfield committeeman is worse than a deer in the headlights. Wheeling is about the only organization that can deliver; and even some of that is more by accident than it is by planning and exeuution.

  38. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 5:04 pm:

    Thank Forrest Claypool and the Chicago Tribune.

    They made sure the Cook County Democratic Party showed up on Election Day.

    I thought the GOP learned their lesson when they opted in 2006 to never field a serious candidate against Lisa Madigan again.

    I was mistaken.

  39. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 5:12 pm:

    ===I thought the GOP learned their lesson when they opted in 2006 to never field a serious candidate against Lisa Madigan again.===

    And they didn’t.

  40. - Southern Illinois Voter - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 7:15 pm:

    Personal opinion here - BB was the least electable of the 3 GOP contenders. Vote was split in the primary, & BB slipped in. In watching the campaign this year, I also thought BB spent way too much time in central & southern IL while he should have been spending more time in the Chicago area. Just my thoughts…

  41. - VanillaMan - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 8:21 pm:

    This was a tie election. A switch of 10,000 votes and Illinois would have elected an Amish governor from Bloomington who didn’t campaign in the state’s largest city.

    Now, who won?

    Quinn has been governor for two years. We know he is a loser. He couldn’t win a majority of voters. Outside Chicago the Governor was soundly rejected.

    Now, who won?

    With results like this, no one. Considering the fact the guy who ended up with more votes couldn’t win in 100 of Illinois’ counties is no vote of support. No mandate. No change. No future.

  42. - ironman - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 8:28 pm:

    all citizens north of I80 can keep the tax increases, gov sub programs, and the poor business climate. We little citizens south of I80, prefer lowering taxes, increasing small business, that increases hiring employees that generates more cash and don’t want the state telling us what to do. Brady was his own worse enemy…

  43. - Ricca - Monday, Nov 15, 10 @ 11:30 pm:

    Meaning no disrespect to the excellent political skills of Personal PAC, Quinn owes his election to Joe Berrios. The Democratic Party leaders needed Berrios to win over Claypool; the extra turnout in Cook County also paid off for Quinn.

  44. - bored now - Tuesday, Nov 16, 10 @ 7:42 am:

    Ricca: i don’t know anyone who was contacted by the berrios campaign. i saw an AWFUL lot of boxes of berrios lit on the floors of offices on election day (which came after every other campaign had run out of lit; 2 weeks before e-day). i hadn’t heard of a single robocall from berrios or his campaign. i saw virtually no signs. so crediting the berrios campaign for anything more than increased turnout in a couple of wards/precincts seems ludicrous (aside from the attempt at credit-taking).

    if anything, the berrios campaign tried to divide democrats, with the chairman trying to force committeemen to focus solely on his election while the coordinated was focused on other things. a more accurate analysis would probably be that quinn won despite the efforts of berrios, not because of him…

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