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Raoul’s path

Monday, Aug 5, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) was apparently taken aback a few weeks ago when his standard public comments about not ruling out a race for governor were taken as a dramatic sign that he might very well run.

The reaction should’ve been predictable. The most recent Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll, taken in mid-July, had Gov. Pat Quinn getting just 38 percent of the Democratic primary vote. That’s pretty awful for an incumbent. Bill Daley, who made his exploratory candidacy official last week, was at 33 percent.

That leaves a lot of wide open space for a new challenger. There is a very definable path for Raoul to do well here. And while he might not win, he’d likely set himself up for a future statewide race - possibly the 2016 US Senate primary - if he runs a credible campaign. There really just isn’t much of a downside, so let’s look at his path.

Race - African-Americans make up a huge segment of the Democratic primary vote, so Raoul, who is black, should do quite well as long as he’s seen as a credible candidate. Gov. Quinn is counting on winning the black vote in order to defeat Bill Daley, pretty much the same way he defeated Dan Hynes in 2010. Without that all-important constituency locked up, Quinn would be in very big trouble, indeed.

Quinn is not overwhelmingly popular with black voters. Just 47 percent back Quinn against Daley, according to the July poll, and Quinn’s job approval rating in a June poll among black Democrats was a mere 28 percent, while 40 percent disapproved.

Geography - Rumors abound that Quinn and Daley are looking at the possibility of choosing urban minority running mates. Raoul, however, would be free to choose a white Downstater or suburbanite, possibly giving him the only geographically “balanced” ticket on the Democratic side.

To say that Quinn is unpopular Downstate would be the understatement of the year. And Daley isn’t trusted by Downstaters. In the recent Democratic primary head-to-head poll I commissioned, “Undecided” led among Downstaters with 36 percent.

Money - Raoul raised $400,000 in the second quarter for an aborted attorney general bid. While his fundraising total trails the other two Democratic candidates, Raoul has far more money in the bank right now than state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who is touted as a serious Republican gubernatorial contender.

Public employee unions are desperate to back a candidate in the primary, but they don’t yet have anyone they can trust. Quinn and Daley both want pension reforms that they oppose, for instance. So it’s possible they could wind up in his corner, which means big bucks.

Also, if Raoul convinces black voters that he’s a credible candidate, then history shows he doesn’t really need to raise as much money as his opponents. Barack Obama, who was vastly outspent in the 2004 US Senate primary, is just one example of this.

Infrastructure - A late start in any statewide race is not a good thing because Illinois is so large and diverse and complicated and you don’t just pop up and run for something without having any infrastructure in place. But Raoul already started putting together a statewide race, so the beginnings of an infrastructure are there.

He could also very well have the strong support of Senate President John Cullerton, who has all but privately declared war on Quinn since the governor’s veto of state legislative salaries. Cullerton’s formidable organization could help Raoul set up a statewide organization. Most of Cullerton’s members, who are also Raoul’s fellow legislators, could be expected to pitch in as well.

If the unions jump in on his side, that would also be a big infrastructure help. Cook County African-American Democrats are some of the most well-organized and politically aware ethnic group in the state, which could give Raoul a built-in infrastructure advantage.

The Downsides - Raoul has never won a contested race, and experience at taking and throwing hard punches is crucial in a high-level contest like this one. While known to and respected by much of the media and the political establishment, he likely has close to zero name recognition amongst the voting populace. If he runs and ends up tossing the victory to Daley, he’ll likely upset several powerful black politicos. And since he hasn’t been on the radar screen, nobody knows what an opposition report might find.

He’ll need plenty of fire in his belly just to survive the day to day ordeal, but it’s not there yet. If he finds that fire, I think he might be able to pull this off.



  1. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:25 am:

    Capt. Fax:
    It could get better.
    How about repeat of the three way that led to U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun make history?
    Quinn bashed BankerBilly ( his populist DNA will almost mandate)
    Both will be scared to whack the Senator lest they appear politically incorrect.
    Hence Senator walks in to general. GOPies savage each other and serve up CousinBrucey and his hedge fund hustling (Give $$$ to Ed Rendell ’cause he was ed reform is a laugher)

    The Obama senate race is another good template, by CMB was more fun.

  2. - OneMan - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:26 am:

    I think he could pull it off as well… Also could make the contest much more interesting…

  3. - bored now - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:26 am:

    a run for statewide office would also allow him to cultivate a national fund-raising base that he could use in any future efforts…

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:36 am:

    The column outlines a reasonable path, but you really have to want it. The primary is going to be rough, on both sides. The TV stations are going to make a fortune on negative spots.

  5. - Aldyth - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    I surely would like an alternative that I could actually vote for, instead of deciding which inept, offensive, or inadequate candidate is the least inept, offensive, or inadquate.

  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:44 am:

    Aldyth, welcome to democracy.

  7. - A guy... - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:45 am:

    I’d love to see a Downstate poll including all three candidates before jumping into the deep end on this. I’m not positive Kwame would come out on top of that one. Downstaters are very leery of Chicago legislators. They might dance with the devil they know.

  8. - Stones - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:49 am:

    Maybe my thinking is behind the times, but I still think it is important to have some sort of geographic balance to the ticket. It bothers me that Daley & Quinn are both reportedly favoring Cook County people as running mates. I think to totally write off downstaters is a receipe for failure. It would be a wise move for Raoul to pick an established vote-getter to be his running mate if he makes the race.

  9. - Pat C - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:50 am:

    How about repeat of the three way that led to U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun make history

    You must remember that there was not a real R candidate that year. No one wanted to take on Al the Pal. So, CMB got a cake walk for the general.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:52 am:

    First, great read, Rich.

    I can see - CFS -’s premise, heck Kwame or not, those factors scared me away from the race with Lisa as a 3rd candidate, now remove Lisa, insert Kwame, and Bill Daley and Quinn have other challenges than if Lusa would have been the 3rd.

    Further, great points by Rich with infrastructure, and add - wordslinger -’s point about “wanting it” is part and parcel to bake a winning cake statewide be it a primary or general election possibilities.

    Great read, I see the “avenue”, ton of upside for later runs Sen. Raoul may want to make, but infrastructure, credible alternative, and “fire” are going to be more of a worry for Raoul than just raw money, or built in constituencies.

    Infrastructure, Credibility, and “Fire Inside” must be the bedrock for Sen. Raoul to make the strongest run this time, to be the Democratic Nominee. Any of those three go “missing”, then all this will be is a “dry run” for another day, and given the dynamics, that might be a mistake.

    Make your cake, Sen. Raoul. You have a chance to bake a winner come March…

  11. - Frank - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:53 am:

    Rich is dead on. I think it’s hard to overstate how unappealing both Quinn and Daley are to the Democratic Primary base. Two balding white guys whose names have been part of Illinois politics for decades. Doesn’t excite a lot of voters.

  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 9:54 am:

    –You must remember that there was not a real R candidate that year. No one wanted to take on Al the Pal. So, CMB got a cake walk for the general.–

    Who were the powerhouses that took a pass? It’s not like the GOP has been running Ev Dirksen or Charles Percy for the last many cycles.

  13. - wndycty - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:04 am:

    Raoul/Phelps would be a strong ticket, a very, very strong ticket. Additionally, I think Kwame would do very well with white progressives who would never vote for Daley and who like Quinn but have lost confidence in him.

    Add Brandon Phelps to the mix and you lock up downstate and center/right Democrats. And Phelps would be extremely valuable in a general election downstate.

  14. - siriusly - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:05 am:

    I agree with your thinking Rich and most comments here. Sen. Raoul has a real chance to win if he fully commits to it, but he will need some really good people with him because he hasn’t had to fight for it before.

    True Daley has also never run, but his campaign experience with his brother and with Al Gore counts in my opinion.

  15. - MrJM - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    I can see how Kwame Raoul could defeat Pat Quinn but I still don’t see how Kwame Raoul becomes Governor.

    – MrJM

  16. - Jack - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    I think Raoul picked up some positive name recognition through his work on concealed carry. And I think that would help him considerably down state compared to the two gun control candidates.

  17. - Soccermom - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:17 am:

    Look. I love the whole state of Illinois. Grew up downstate. Went to school downstate. Spent a lot of time in Springfield. Have spent many vacation days wandering the Magnificent Miles of Illinois.

    But — the vast majority of Democratic votes are in Cook and DuPage. So while downstate balance is a nice idea, it’s not critical to winning an election, at least not if you’re a Democrat.

    One person, one vote — not one county, one vote.

  18. - vibes - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:21 am:

    Hey wait a minute, what’s Burris doing? He’s from downstate! :-)

    The new LtGov rule really does bring the silly-season earlier.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:24 am:

    - Soccermom -

    Yep, no matter whose Primary, or even in the General - Counties. Don’t. Vote.

    That being said, if Raoul gets in the race, if Quinn or Daley are “passable” in Cook and the Collars, and make a “move” that is “Rod-Like” as Rod took out Paul Vallas, Rauol puts a bigger emphasis on Downstate, if that is even possible, if the race stayed just between Daley and Quinn(?)

    I see the possibility of someone getting “Vallas-Ed” with Raoul in the mix, AND the cake being baked for a Rauol path.

  20. - Pat C - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    Powerhouses that passed

    Surely Rich Williamson doesn’t come to mind when you say “powerhouse”. Accept the facts, CMB got very lucky, IL got very unlucky that year.

  21. - SAP - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:40 am:


  22. - Stones - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    Soccermom @ 10:17

    Very true, one person - one vote not by county. That being said, even though a downstater might not carry his / her home area, they still would cut into the presumed Republican margin. I would also point out for the purposes of this discussion that I am counting the collar counties as “downstate”.

    As I said, maybe I am old fashioned but I think the democratic ticket lacks balance and at some point that will come back to bite them.

  23. - Loop Lady - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    SAP: Huh? I can hardly stand Forby now in the legislature, although he would do a great job of doing very little as light Gov…

    To the post: Why does someone in the legislature have to run against Quinn and Daley? Who could run instead of Raoul? I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head either…

  24. - ZC - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 10:58 am:

    I’d argue as you get into a third candidate, the importance of votes south of I80 keeps going up, since as noted none of these candidates has much base down there. It may not be the most votes but it may be the most persuadable batch of voters.

    If Cullerton and every Democratic Senator south of I 80 started backing Kwame, playing on local credibility / trust …

    But frankly this is all about the polling, alas. If you’re not polling you are guessing, and if you are guessing you are probably wrong. This is no longer a mysterious art form. Kwame should be hiring a reputable top tier polling outfit and seeing if there’s a credible message path to victory. If he has that and can demonstrate the path to powers that be, there will be money to donate to him.

  25. - shore - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 11:07 am:

    Comparing him to the next obama reminds me of the comparisons to the next jfk, the next reagan, the next insert famous person here. I’ve watched him for years on chicago tonight and like so many springfielders he lacks any sophistication, gravitas, intellect or ability to articulate anything other than “if you don’t agree with more spending you’re a crazy winger extremist”.


  26. - Loop Lady - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 11:15 am:

    Be careful in comparing Raoul to Obama. Many of his most ardent supporters have been off the reservation for some time.

    Raoul needs more experience as did the POTUS before he ran, in IMO.

    Knowing the players and playinfg field is critical
    to being an effective pol.

  27. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 11:15 am:

    –Surely Rich Williamson doesn’t come to mind when you say “powerhouse”. –

    No, he does not. Kind of the point.

  28. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 11:20 am:

    Mr/M Pat C
    We know Ambassador Williamson. He came closer than even he realizes and he was as real as all the Magooes who are lining up to be savaged and lose to CousinBrucey who will then fall to the Senator for the Rendell Stu Levine ties

  29. - Frank - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 11:23 am:

    There are three constituency groups that dominate Dem primaries in Illinois: African-Americans, union families, and white liberals. Latinos and downstaters just don’t vote in big enough numbers to matter much. Gender can play a factor too, but only if there is a female candidate or a conservative candidate in the field who can be hurt by a right-leaning abortion stance — neither scenario applies right now.

    Quinn has done well with black voters in the past, but I don’t think you can argue that either Quinn or Daley excite any of the big three Dem primary constituencies. That’s why this race is ripe for a third candidate.

    I think Daley made a huge tatical error in not embracing Cullerton’s pension reform bill. He would have been raked over the coals by the editorial boards and ticked off his LaSalle Street pals, but it would have put one of the “big three” groups in his corner. Right now, he has no base in the primary…you don’t win without a base.

  30. - jake - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:03 pm:

    I think that Rich’s analysis is right on. If Kwame is tough enough (and whatever else you say about Pat Quinn, he is one tough guy), he would have a shot, and he would do his future significant good by running a credible campaign, whether or not he won. The fact that he would not be facing a truly popular figure, either in the primary or the general election, is what gives him the opening. Although he is not widely known, he is smart, likable, and responsible. If he can maintain that image throughout a tough campaign, he can win. His choice of running mate would be an extremely interesting one. Somebody like Brad Phelps would provide balance, but open him to the charge that he is betraying his core constituency. I think a good choice would be one of the strong female legislators, for example Nekritz. That provides another kind of balance–gender balance– but maintains a consistent political philosophy.

  31. - Rod - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    In relation to “Daley” mistakes. I would add that his coming out publicly for the state income tax increase to sunset was probably a tactical mistake. While everyone hates taxes without this revenue Illinois will be in fiscal trouble without this increase even if pension obligations are somewhat reduced. It would have been wiser to avoid that issue at this time since the increase doesn’t sunset until 2015.

  32. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:10 pm:

    ===Raoul/Phelps would be a strong ticket, a very, very strong ticket. Additionally, I think Kwame would do very well with white progressives ===

    I really don’t think you can have both Brandon on the ticket and the support of white progressives.

    Brandon is an excellent legislator and a truly great guy. Statewide Dem primary? Not so sure. His positions on guns, gays and abortion would force Raoul to constantly explain himself in Cook County.

    Still, it sure would be fun to see that.

  33. - jake - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    An afterthought: Linda Chapa Lavia as a potential running mate for Kwame–another smart capable likable woman, and another ethnic base touched for the Democratic primary. Not widely known, but well able to withstand wide scrutiny, to the best of my knowledge. Certainly has crossover appeal, as she is the first Hispanic to serve in a legislative district outside of Cook County.

  34. - Frank - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:12 pm:

    Rod, agreed. Daley seems to be running a centrist, general election campaign. He ain’t there yet! Has to give primary voters a reason to vote for him.

  35. - Responsa - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:22 pm:

    I like Kwame and think he has a big future. But this is not his time yet. It’s too soon, he is too inexperienced and his executive background is —–. The people who are urging/pushing/challenging/begging him to run for governor next year are doing him a big dis-service in my opinion. I hope he resists the pressure. I think he’s smart and savvy enough to do it, too.

  36. - Responsa - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 12:42 pm:

    ==…unappealing…Two balding white guys ==

    That’s a little harsh, Frank. Lots of people in this state love balding white guys. (Mothers, wives, significant others, sons, daughters.)

  37. - Frank - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 1:21 pm:

    Responsa– I am a balding white guy!

  38. - Cod - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 2:32 pm:

    Your statement ==Public employee unions are desperate to back a candidate in the primary, but they don’t yet have anyone they can trust== rings very true. Dont forget all the voters those unions represent who are disgusted with all the current candidates who want to renege on middle class pension contracts.

  39. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 2:42 pm:

    I disagree a bit, I think he could actually win it. he would need to Cullerton or a similar person to give him advice on handling responses to blows, but he definetly could pull it off.

    I would say a Raoul/Scherer ticket or Raoul/Bradley would pick up a lot of Downstate support. Bradley will be liked by those who are a little more sonservative, and Scherer comes across as being a regular jane which would appeal donwstate.

  40. - jake - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 3:05 pm:

    The problem with Kwame waiting another cycle is that Lisa Madigan might be ready to run then. This time might be early based on his personal timetable, but this is the time when the opposition looks relatively weak.

  41. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 4:06 pm:

    Raoul/Phelps doesn’t bother me, unless we’re already planning for Raoul to walk in the footsteps of Blago and Ryan.

  42. - Bill K - Monday, Aug 5, 13 @ 5:47 pm:

    Governor. LOL till my stomach hurts.

  43. - Abu Iskander - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 12:42 am:

    Some “outside-the-box” thinking…

    If Sen. Raoul is looking “downstate”, an intriging place to look is Ron Matekitis. He’s a judge in the 16th Circuit, but former DeKalb County State’s Attorney and County Board Member; a Democrat elected (and respected) in a regularly Republican county that’s historically considered downstate, but much more of a collar county adjunct to Kane County nowadays.

    The Judge may have to give up his seat to run in a partisan race, though…

  44. - The Quad Citian - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    More reason for Quinn to pick Greg Aguilar to be his running mate.

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