Defection more bad news for Quinn


Share
Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2013, 3:02 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Rich Miller
"Off topic? I can't imagine what that would be," cracked Gov. Pat Quinn last week during a press conference. Just hours before, his lieutenant governor had announced that she would not be Quinn's 2014 running mate.

Gov. Quinn usually does a pretty good job during his press conferences of convincing reporters to wait to ask off topic questions until all questions about the subject at hand have been asked. Last week was no exception.

Quinn was holding a presser with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss her conditional approval allowing Illinois to move forward with an online health insurance exchange -- a major step toward implementing the president's national health care plan.

"You could get caught by stray bullets," Quinn jokingly warned the folks who had gathered with him to make the announcement. "You don't have to be part of the firing squad," he added with a laugh.

He knew what was coming. Earlier in the morning, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute had released a poll showing that Quinn was badly trailing Lisa Madigan in a hypothetical primary matchup. By mid-morning, the late Sen. Simon's daughter Sheila had announced that she wouldn't be running with him again. Ms. Simon's aides say she didn't know about the poll from her late father's think tank, but the rich irony wasn't lost on those of us who watch these things.

Sheila Simon was chosen by Quinn after Democratic primary voters made the unfortunate mistake of nominating a pawn broker with a rather colorful past by the name of Scott Lee Cohen. After details of Mr. Cohen's alleged assault of a massage parlor girlfriend lover emerged, Cohen dropped out of the race.

Quinn didn't pick Simon for her political acumen. She lost a Carbondale mayor's race that pretty much everybody thought was in the bag. Instead, she was chosen mainly for her name. The governor still idolizes the late Sen. Simon and that name is still held in high esteem among older Democrats.

Ms. Simon, however, seemed to chafe at times under Quinn's leadership. Quinn demanded too much control of her budget. She had to fight for every dime, every hire, every square inch of office space. As with most of her predecessors, Simon found that the office wasn't worth much.

And it doesn't take a political scientist to see that Quinn could very well be doomed next time around. He barely won in 2010, mainly because he convinced voters that his heart was in the right place. But after four years on the job, the public still intensely dislikes him. The Simon Institute's recent poll pegged his job approval rating at just 32.8 percent. Other polls have shown even worse numbers.

Anyway, back to last week's big announcement by Simon. Usually with these sorts of announcements, some sort of groundwork is done beforehand. A newspaper is given a tip, for instance. Top insiders are told what to expect. That didn't happen this time, though.

I 'd told my subscribers several days before that Simon was planning to run for another office and that Quinn was rumored to be looking for an African-American running mate, but that didn't come directly from inside. Some top Quinn staffers were completely caught off guard by last week's announcement, which just fueled the fires.

So, the mainstream media wasn't kind, and the poll's timing didn't help matters much. The fact that Quinn didn't appear with Simon at her announcement further underscored the curiosity of the whole thing.

Word from inside is that Simon told Quinn back in December that she had set her sights on comptroller. But she reportedly assumed that Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka would be retiring. Not happening. So, treasurer -- which will be an open seat contest if incumbent Republican Dan Rutherford pulls the trigger on governor -- is now on the radar screen, as well as attorney general if incumbent Democrat Lisa Madigan tries to move up to governor.

For Quinn, though, last week's optics were just terrible. Three straight polls have now shown him doing poorly against Attorney General Madigan. His 2010 running mate abruptly announces that she's abandoning him without even knowing where she'll land. And he's left to face reporters alone on what should have been a major news day for him.

This was, to say the least, not an auspicious beginning for Quinn's reelection effort.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax; CapitolFax.com.


















 



Local events heading








  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.


(More History)