* My Sun-Times column today is a deliberately contrarian viewpoint that may not go over well with some people. So be it…
There’s been a lot of talk lately that Roland Burris can’t possibly win a full term if he’s seated in the United States Senate.
I’m not 100 percent convinced, so please allow me a few contrarian thoughts.
The appointment of Burris by arrested, embattled and soon-to-be impeached Gov. Blagojevich has caused an intense racial firestorm in our state and our nation. The situation is almost approaching O.J. Simpson levels, and it’s intensifying with every passing day.
A statewide poll taken this week by the Glengariff Group illustrates the racial divide. African-American voters in Illinois support the Burris appointment by a 67 percent to 21 percent. White voters opposition to the appointment is a similarly lopsided 58 percent to 26 percent.
Illinois Democrats are divided. But a plurality, 46 percent, favors the appointment while 41.5 percent oppose it, the poll found.
If Burris is seated as our state’s next U.S. senator, he’ll have to run for re-election in 2010. The Democratic primary is in early February of that year, less than 13 months from now.
Considering the racial hostility inflamed by this appointment, with U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush leading the charge by first warning against “lynching” Burris and then comparing the U.S. Senate leadership to old-time southern sheriffs, there is no way that a legitimate white Democratic opponent will announce against Burris anytime soon. Too risky.
Yes, there may be some early interest expressed by the usual white liberal suspects, but those people have never shown an ability to move too far up the ladder.
The top white Democratic prospects will have to lie low until the heat dies down. Time is money in politics, and every day that goes by will mean one less day that they can’t raise cash.
A legit white opponent could eventually emerge. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias comes to mind.
Giannoulias, who has set his sights on the governor’s office, would likely only run with the blessing of his mentor Barack Obama, however. Obama played a key role in the Senate’s capitulation to Burris this week by privately urging Democratic leaders to just get it over with and seat the guy. And you better believe there will be pressure on Obama from African-American politicos to endorse Burris, or at least stay out of the 2010 race.
A Giannoulias/Obama win also assumes the emergence of only one major white candidate. There could be more. Comptroller Dan Hynes, for instance. More than one white candidate would immensely help Burris’ primary chances.
Burris has become a national cause celebre, so he ought to be able to raise lots of early campaign money from African Americans throughout the country. And because 46 percent of Illinois Democrats support his appointment, the move wasn’t as unpopular with his party as some (like me) assumed.
Then there’s the general election. Democrats are in a pickle with voters right now — Burris, Blagojevich, Todd Stroger, etc. — but that doesn’t mean Illinois voters automatically love Republicans.
Plus, what sort of Republican might emerge from a primary? If past experience dictates, it will be either a conservative who will repel general election voters, or a badly damaged moderate. And, remember, “moderate” is a term that can be easily twisted to “right-winger.” Just ask Judy Baar Topinka.
The dynamic changes if Pat Quinn can persuade the General Assembly to call a snap special election after he is sworn in as governor. But I’m not so sure Quinn will be able to keep that promise. Legislative Democrats don’t want to take the chance of a Republican winning the seat — even if the chance is somewhat small.
Barring that prospect, Burris might just surprise everybody by winning in 2010. I wouldn’t bet big money on it yet, but I wouldn’t bet against him right now, either.
* Meanwhile, I was shocked yesterday that the Republicans on the impeachment committee let this pass without much notice…
A potentially troublesome new detail emerged about Roland Burris’ controversial U.S. Senate appointment Thursday after a state House panel voted unanimously to recommend Gov. Blagojevich be impeached.
For the first time, Burris indicated that he asked Blagojevich’s former chief of staff and college classmate, Lon Monk, to relay his interest in the Senate seat to the governor last July or September. […]
That testimony appears to differ from an affidavit Burris submitted to the impeachment panel this week in which he stated he spoke to no “representatives” of the governor about the Senate post prior to Dec. 26.
Federal prosecutors, who identified Monk as “Lobbyist 1″ in their criminal complaint against Blagojevich, indicated they tapped Monk’s phone in November as Blagojevich moved to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
It’s too late to do anything about it now.
* More Burris stuff…
* Bob Benenson’s Jigsaw Politics: Early Illinois Primary Would Give Burris Just Months to Prove Himself
* Roland Burris asked ex-Rod Blagojevich aide about Senate seat
* Burris called Blagojevich aide to try to get nephew state job
* Durbin: Burris testimony will get ‘careful review’
* Burris denies Blago quid pro quo for Senate seat
* Burris says no improper deals for Senate seat
* Burris confident after questioning
* Monument reflects appointee’s ambitions
* Burris explains why his tombstone was created already