Think of the campaign for governor as a bloody three-ring circus.
In the ‘’Stage Left'’ ring are Democrats Gov. Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes.
Quinn has struggled to find his leadership chops since being elevated to the top job by Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. Hynes has begun running an aggressive campaign against Quinn, labeling him an indecisive, ineffective flip-flopper.
Over on “Stage Right” are the Republican candidates.
The front-runner is state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a decent, experienced politician from DuPage County who is so decent that he cut a TV ad for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. That expression of bipartisan admiration for one of his former colleagues has prompted howls of derision from fellow candidates.
Sen. Matt Murphy, a freshman from the Northwest suburbs, made headlines last year when he led the charge for secession from Todd Stroger’s Cook County and, lately, he’s become Dillard’s harshest critic. Murphy has already aired a Downstate TV ad slamming Dillard for supporting a Stroger tax increase. The tax hike was for mass transit, but whatever. He made his point.
Sen. Bill Brady, who ran last time and impressed many with his presence and poise, has never been afraid of taking a whack at a primary opponent. He blasted Dillard for saying nice things about Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Ultraconservative campaign consultant Dan Proft reportedly has a huge stash of private money ready to use for attacks on his fellow GOP candidates. Proft loves the hatchet, and blood will certainly flow.
The other Republican candidates will also likely pile on whoever the front-runner appears to be at any given moment.
Any day now, though, the spotlight will begin shining on the center ring, and it won’t turn off until the campaign ends. The star of the center ring will be Rod Blagojevich — our former clown in chief.
Blagojevich’s new book is coming out next month. I can take a wild guess at what he will say:
‘’Springfield is bad. I was set up. House Speaker Mike Madigan is bad. I tried to give everybody health care. Senate President John Cullerton is bad. I was railroaded. Pat Quinn is bad. I did nothing wrong. Illinois news media is bad. I’m the good guy.'’
Innumerable cable TV appearances will follow, and some moronic talking heads will scream that Blagojevich was given a raw deal.
Blagojevich’s book tour will probably last right up until the February primary. Hynes has slammed Quinn for not standing up to Blagojevich. Blagojevich has said he’s convinced that Quinn was part of an evil plot to kick him out of office. Blagojevich’s book tour will be a constant distraction for Quinn.
And you can bet that any Republican gubernatorial candidate who ever supported any of Blagojevich’s ideas will also be in for a beat-down during the tour of shame. Indeed, Murphy’s ad also tried to tie Dillard to Blagojevich.
Come June, when the winning nominees start to crank up their campaigns, the spotlight will shine even more intensely on our goofy center ring as Blagojevich’s criminal trial begins. God only knows what that man will say or do.
The trial will probably last until around Labor Day, setting the stage for the final run. Blagojevich will be on everyone’s minds, and the fall campaign will most likely revolve around his horrific legacy. The center ring will remain the center of attention.
The truth is Blagojevich was such an aberration that we probably don’t have to worry about ever electing anyone else like him again. He also had only a few true friends and allies. But those facts were long ago lost in the ether. We’re in for an excruciating and mostly pointless 14 months.