Democrat Bill Daley's decision to quit the governor's race provided a measure of clarity Tuesday for both political parties heading into the 2014 elections.
Democrats get a measure of unity, no longer having to worry about significant primary contests for governor or any other statewide race. Gov. Pat Quinn gets to save his campaign cash for the fall campaign.
Republicans get a single target on which to focus their attacks: a governor of lukewarm popularity they view as highly vulnerable. Still, a four-way March primary remains and the Republican governor hopefuls risk endangering their own electability in the general election as they spend the next six months trying to appeal to traditionally more conservative primary voters.
Daley did not go quietly Tuesday as he closed the books on his primary campaign of less than four months. Instead, the lifelong Democrat helped amplify the Republican case that Quinn is unelectable in November 2014.
"One of my, maybe, failings in life is that I'm awfully honest with you people. And because I haven't had the role of an elected official or a candidate, I've been pretty blunt. So, forgive me for being honest," Daley said. He joked that his belief Quinn can't win re-election was based on his "political genius," but added, "I'll be proven either a genius or an idiot" by the voters.
Quinn, who dodged Democratic primary challenges from not only Daley but from Lisa Madigan, the attorney general and daughter of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, was uncharacteristically silent. The governor made no public appearances as his march to the nomination suddenly has grown easier, though Quinn has scheduled a Wednesday event where he is expected to be asked about Daley's parting shot.
The March 18 primary is shaping up to be a dull one for Democrats, with none of the statewide contests expected to feature serious competition, pending any unexpected actions through the candidacy filing season that ends in early December.
Lisa Madigan, who is seeking re-election as attorney general, said Tuesday that she is not reconsidering her decision to bypass a run against Quinn.
"My decision was based on nothing else to do but my own considerations, not those of any other potential candidates in the race," she said.
Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago, who also had weighed a primary challenge to Quinn, said he was not reconsidering. Raoul indicated his decision was due to a variety of factors, not simply whether the primary would have been "a three-way or a two-way race."
On Monday, Daley told the Tribune "there's no doubt in my mind that Pat Quinn will not be the next governor of Illinois. This governor is not that strong that somebody should fear running against him." Raoul said he believed Daley's "parting shot" at Quinn was divisive.
"If (Daley) decides he doesn't have the stomach for it, don't take potshots at somebody who does," said Raoul, who is not considered a close ally of the governor's. "Whatever one may think about the governor's shortcomings, at least he's stepping up to the job."
With no high-profile challenger to Quinn, media attention will focus almost exclusively on the Republican governor primary.
Daley's decision removes one major variable for the four major GOP contenders, allowing them to home in on Quinn rather than offer a more generic critique of Democratic control of Springfield — a task they launched in earnest Tuesday.
State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, who is making another bid for governor after losing to Quinn in 2010, said he was eager to again take the fight to the governor.
"I don't think there's anyone who questions that if that rematch were held today, given the misgivings of the Quinn administration, we'd end up on top by a great number of votes," said Brady, who introduced as his running mate Maria Rodriguez, a former eight-year mayor of Long Grove.
Brady, who defeated state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale by 193 votes in the crowded Republican governor primary in 2010, said he did not believe the GOP contenders would dust themselves up while Quinn waited, unchecked, for the general election.
"Republican primaries, this one like the last one, I think, will be a great opportunity for Republicans to learn about the difference between the candidates," Brady said.
Dan Rutherford of Chenoa, who won the state treasurer's post in 2010, said his results for the last statewide general election provide confirmation to Republican primary voters that he can defeat Quinn in a general election.
"Now we know it's Quinn," said Rutherford, who added that he viewed Daley's decision as improving his own chances. Rutherford said he got 22 percent of the November 2010 vote cast for treasurer in Democrat-dominated Chicago, proof he can win votes across party lines. Rutherford also noted that while there were fewer votes cast for treasurer than the governor's race, he still got more votes overall than Quinn.
Dillard, who is making his second run for governor, sought to counter Daley's concern about the "enormity" of the job of governor by noting his background as a lawmaker and former chief of staff to Gov. Jim Edgar.
"It is a daunting job, but I'm tested and I'm prepared," Dillard said. "But we'll see what the fall election's like when I go up against Pat Quinn."
Bruce Rauner, a wealthy equity investor, had welcomed Daley to the governor's race by criticizing the "same old political dynasties" and "the political machines that have been in charge" of Illinois.
Reacting to Daley's exit, Rauner never mentioned the candidate by name but issued a generic statement that went so far as to accuse Quinn of being "a master of machine politics." That might be news to a Daley family that had perfected that art.
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