Thursday, January 26, 2006

GOP Gubernatorial Race Remains Volatile

Last night's debate did not change my mind about who I will vote for for governor; I would have had to have it made up for that to happen. I have already changed it six or seven times since this whole business began late last winter. Most of my closest friends in politics have done the same. For people who do this stuff full-time that is nearly unheard of - and that's why this is the most volatile race in recent memory. Less than two months away from election nobody is scoring any big points. It's as if we were going into the 12th inning of a 0-0 tie. One big play could win it.

Certainly, each campaign has its own spin on how things are going, some which bear remarkably little relation to reality.

I hear routinely from people near Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka that she is so far ahead of everyone else that the rest of the field is hopelessly tilting at windmills. Some are generously trying to help me keep from making a fool of myself. Ahhh, what's the fun in life if you can't make a fool of yourself on occasion? And besides, I've heard that a hundred times in different campaigns - about half the time I'm right and everyone else is wrong and half the time I'm wrong and everyone else is right. I can live with that. (A commenter recently suggested a drinking game in which players would take a drink every time I said I in a post. Warning: for those who are playing, do not drive past this point).

At last night's debate Topinka boasted the most experience and seemed the least informed. Missing, too, was her usual high-octane enthusiasm. Truth be told, she looked downright grim. It does strike me as strategically sound that Topinka waited until the last minute to get into the race, trying to effectively shorten the cycle and to avoid talking about specific issues. She does not match up well with the primary electorate, a fact that has been partly masked by holding a non-ideological down-ballot office. The longer and more closely she is scrutinized the clearer that becomes, so effectively shortening the season makes sense.

But if one is going to sell the notion that she is head and shoulders above the field, she needs in her rare public forums to sound at least as knowledgable as the people she purports to be head and shoulders above. But she is helped by the fact that Ed Eisendrath's challenge in the Democratic Primary to Gov. Rod Blagojevich is looking more and more like a non-starter. Topinka has always needed Democratic crossovers to ensure victory.

Businessman Jim Oberweis projected confidence and humor. He long ago solidified the support of the hard base. But that base alone only accounts for about 25% of primary voters - and Oberweis had often solidified their support in ways that scared others off his campaign. He went a long way last night to reassuring them he will not be a divisive scold.

Oberweis tries to sell the notion that this is a two-person race between him and Topinka. If he stays disciplined and cheery, that might become true. But past missteps have made people wary of him. A major blunder or a public blowup - or even a true but red-faced, angry tirade could knock him out of the race. He has to campaign as both an authentic reformer and a uniter. Still, though I have written about the 'corruption tax' that Oberweis so frequently spoke about last night, I doubt it is the $1 billion he estimated it to be and I don't think he can pay for everything with it.

People who watched the debate saw what has made State Sen. Bill Brady so tantalizing to so many in the GOP this cycle. More than any other candidate he has a Reaganesque charm and cheery nature. I have described him before as a rookie pitcher with a blazing fastball and a curve that will buckle your knees - but no control. You drool to watch him when he's at his best and hope that he will turn out to be Sandy Koufax rather than Rick Ankiel (if you don't know who Ankiel was, that's the point). But whatever you eventually expect from him, few who have watched him for a year or more think he's ready for the bigs. The reality is his campaign operation is thin, which makes it very difficult to project his cheery message in the field. And for his disciplined sunniness last night, earlier in the day he had launched into Oberweis at the City Club of Chicago with hammer and tong. While some who were there saw some amusement value in seeing Operweis on the receiving, rather than giving, end of an intemperate attack, it is the sort of wildness I'm speaking of.

Businessman Ron Gidwitz undoubtely lost on style points (no bon mots or witty rejoinders) but he knocked it out of the park on substance. Far more than anyone else on stage he had specific, credible plans for the problems he addressed. He spoke more in the language of the boardroom than in ways designed to effectively convey some complex concepts to a general audience, but he struck me as having the best grasp of specifics and how to translate it into effective policy. It struck me that when Topinka said we need a grown-up to be governor, I thought of Gidwitz.

I can think of credible scenarios by which any of these candidates could win the nomination. Topinka certainly has a lead, but it is not nearly as big as she thinks it is. Oberweis is coming on and has the best chance of any of his races to come away with the nomination, but his chances are more precarious than he imagines them to be - and he isn't yet as close as he thinks he is. He needs to run almost mistake-free as the race heats up.

Brady is beginning to make a pretty good case that he is a big part of the future of the GOP, but he needs several big events to break his way in order to be competitive this time.

I'm beginning to think Gidwitz might be the tortoise in this race. Certainly, he doesn't hit any home runs. But he doesn't strike out or hit into double plays either. In a race in which no candidate is running away with things, small ball might be just the thing that wins. The White Sox did it just a few months back.

18 comments:

Anonymous,  11:26 AM  

Charlie,

You and Rich Miller are having a battle of who was more "Reaganesque" in the debate last night. Too funny.

I think it can all be summed up very simply: (with the understanding it was just one early debate)

Topinka didn't look gubernatorial. To the contrary, she was uncomfortable and unprepared. No gaffes, but no gain.
Brady had a great night. Many who didn't know him will after the debate and resulting coverage. He gets a bump.
Oberweis had a pretty good night. I doubt he won anyone over that wasn't already for him, but he might have kept a few from bolting....at least right now.
Gidwitz was so bad, I was embarrassed for him watching it. WOW!

Pat Collins 12:15 PM  

Brady has the "funding" problem. If he can't be on the air the last 2/3 weeks doing well here won't help. For next, time, it sure will, but not now.

Gidwitz and Oberweis need to convince people they can do the job. In addition, Oberwiese needs to at least try to muffle his negatives. They did that last night.

JBT opened the door to someone. You can't be in springfield as long as she has and perform like that. She looks like one of the crowd - not good for her.

I am not sure if the race will turn on a gaffe or a stunt (think "I paid for that microphone"....). But the clock is indeed ticking.

Anonymous,  12:57 PM  

I agree this race is closer than people think. However, I disagree that JBT is trying to get "cross-over" voters in the primary...that won't happen, even if Rod didn't have a primary. What she will do is focus on those voters in the general election.

Anonymous,  1:32 PM  

If Brady is the reason JBT wins this he will be finished! That is his problem he wants to up his name ID but if he stays low in the polls but costs Oberweis the win he will be looked at as Kejellanders boy in the race to stop Oberweis. Kejellander is not going to be around (the Abramhof scandel will make his radioactive) Insiders know that the party has already tried to help Brady but walked away because of the campaigns ineptness (rumor has it Carter even went to help and he only helps the party ) If Brady turns out to be a party plant he won't have any future in this party.

Anonymous,  3:25 PM  

Wow...that's quite a theory you've got there. So it won't be Oberweis' fault he lost (yea, it never was in the past huh) and he'll be able to lay the blame on others.

Thanks for the laugh Anon 1:32....but I can only hope and pray that if Oberweis loses, he'll finally be finished!

The Colonel,  4:17 PM  

Topinka again showed to me that she's 'not-ready-for-prime-time.'

She is uninformed, unprepared and quirky in her speech and presentation. A few of her comments contradicted themselves. A goofy performance.

If she becomes Governor nothing changes but we have a woman looney-tunes.

The longer Brady stays in the race with no movement in the polls, the more he's ID'd as the 'combines plant' in the race to draw votes from Oberweis.

You can try to sidetrack the Milkman all you want with talk of him being 'negative,' but the fact is that there are differences on policy, and past track records that need to be pointed out.

If you're a member of the 'combine'... OUCH, that's going to hurt.

Last night was pretty much a pillow fight, a waste of time and more of the same is not going to clear the air on specific issues.

Jonah 7:38 PM  

I hope that Gidwitz is the proverbial tortoise, but I don't think voters will appreciate his substance.

Anonymous,  10:47 PM  

Did you ever think it's Oberweis that's in Brady's way.

The Colonel,  10:49 PM  

LOL!

Anonymous,  7:59 AM  

Colonel...the "combine" line is getting tired. Give up proof Brady's a plant, or move on already.

So because Brady may hurt the Milk Dud he should get out of the race?

I hope he stays in until the end...and while I don't believe he's a combine plant...if he keeps the Milk Dud from winning, then he's done this state a great service.

Anonymous,  2:38 PM  

7:59

Bill Brady didn't take one shot at JBT in the debate. While Oberweis is going after JBT even at the City Club debate Brady kept taking shots at Oberweis only. I hear his campaign has a compairison piece out its just Brady and Oberweis on it. Why? Even if Oberweis were to drop out of the race Brady could not win because NOBODY KNOWS WHO HE IS!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous,  3:53 PM  

Give me a break 2:38...not attacking JBT doesn't mean you're a plant...and besides, if the Milk Dud is going after her, while pile on? Let the MD look like the fool...Brady's just putting himself in a better light...too bad the MD never learned that lesson.

The Colonel,  4:06 PM  

The voters are getting "tired" of the combine too! Every day it's a new scandal.

Brady has, and is, going nowhere fast. So who gains by him staying in the race? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

I love all the sleazy, personal attacks on Oberweis, just means he's within striking distance and moving up fast.

the wonderboy,  4:18 PM  

Sleazy, personal attacks on Oberweis? I don't think there have been sleazy, personal attacks on anyone yet...

Moving up fast? Would love to know what numbers you have seen...

Brady is going nowhere fast? You did see the debate on Wednesday, right? Call me crazy, but I think Brady should put on the seatbelt and get ready for takeoff.

It's becoming obvious that the Milkman's campaign is worried that the voters are going to realize what many of us have been saying all along--The Milkman can't beat Blago and Brady is our best shot in November.

Anonymous,  7:42 PM  

Does anyone doubt the earlier Brady/Oberwies debate wasn't intended to try and get Oberwies riled and do something ugly that would make him look bad in the TV debate?

He kept his cool and did surprisingly well, as did Brady.

Anonymous,  12:02 PM  

Wonder

Saying Oberweis lie's to his coordinators because some are not pro life and why would a pro choice person work for him. Telling people that Oberweis told them personally he is just pro life for "political" reasons. Saying he flipped on guns when he didn't. Attacking staffers.
Brady says he agrees that Illegal immigration is a problem and that he was the first one to file legislation to stop Illinois tax money from going to back illegals home loans when it is his matrular card (he cosponsored and voted for the bill)they use to get the loans. But then attacks Oberweis for being UNAMERICAN for not wanting to give illegals in state tuition. He said the word unamerican 5 or6 times. He said we can't hold children liable for the sins of the parents. Making them pay the same price as someone from Iowa is unamerican/ If I don't pay my property taxes they will take my house. They will make my kids move too. The kids have to pay a price for something I did! Brady is done

the wonderboy,  1:46 PM  

If Brady is done, then why did he just receive the Hanover Township endorsement? I sense a little shift in momentum...I understand why you Ice Cream Scoopers are worried. Amazing that a guy who is "done" would get an endorsement in an opponent's backyard.

Anonymous,  5:01 PM  

wonder
Two days ago it was who cares about townships! But if you want to go there it is now Oberweis 5 JBT 2 Brady 1 in Cook townships.
Monroe county in southern Il for the first time in a contested primary has endorsed Jim Oberweis Jim has been found extreamly qualified with JBT in Libertyville, and cuba townships in Lake co. how many votes for Brady 0 No votes in Wheeling twnship the biggest GOP township in Cook I could go on.

It is time Brady started going after JBT or people will start thinking he is there to take Oberweis out. Oberweis people don't call Brady names! One conservative should not call the other names.

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