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Miller: Bill Daley sizes up chances of winning governor’s office

Updated: February 22, 2013 6:23AM



Bill Daley called the other day. We estimated that it had been about three or four years since we last had spoken, which is par for the course.

Going back to at least 2001, Daley, the brother and son of former Chicago mayors, has mulled a bid for governor. The last time was in 2009, when he publicly thought about challenging Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary election.

And now he’s talking about it again.

Before I returned Daley’s call, I wanted to check around and see what might be different this time. I was told that there are two major differences between now and before.

First of all, Rich Daley is no longer mayor. Hizzoner simply didn’t want his brother running statewide.

A gubernatorial bid could shine too much of a spotlight on the mayor, and there was real fear that a statewide run could upset the mayor’s delicately balanced coalition, meaning black voters. Bill Daley is now free to do what he wants.

The other consideration also has to do with family. Daley was divorced in 2001. Now, he has a supportive spouse who will back him all the way.

Daley confirmed those points when we finally connected. But he hasn’t been raising money, he hasn’t been traveling the state and he flatly denied a newspaper report that he had commissioned a poll.

Instead, he has been reaching out to old friends, including former President Bill Clinton, who encouraged him to run. At 64, this could be his last opportunity to conduct a strenuous statewide campaign.

Daley said if he does run, it will only be for a term or maybe two, just to straighten things out and move along.

My big question was what he could bring to the table that Dan Hynes couldn’t in 2010, when he narrowly lost to Quinn in the Democratic primary. Like Hynes, Daley is a white, Irish, South Side Chicagoan. What votes would he get that Hynes could not?

While he wouldn’t come right out and say it (most of the conversation was off the record), I think he believes that Hynes made some late mistakes and that enough voters are ready to move beyond Quinn that he has a legitimate shot.

The power of a sitting governor should never be underestimated in a primary election. Even in the “new era” of reform, governors have jobs, contracts and other favors they can hand out to key constituencies. Quinn doled out million-dollar grants like they were candy in 2010.

Besides that, Quinn is one of the best closers I’ve ever seen. After leading for months, Quinn began slipping against Hynes in 2010. By the last weekend, even some of the governor’s top aides were thinking about finding new jobs after primary day.

And Quinn rallied again that fall, when most people had written him off against state Sen. Bill Brady.

But back to Daley. Will he do it? Well, he sounds more like a candidate than he ever has, but until he starts raising money and doing some traveling round Illinois we shouldn’t take him that seriously.

Can he beat Quinn? In 2010, enough people were willing to give the “accidental governor” a chance that he was able to achieve wins by small margins in both the primary and general elections.

This time around, Quinn will have had nearly six years in the office, and if things don’t turn around soon, he’s not going to get the benefit of the doubt.

Another Daley consideration has to be whether Attorney General Lisa Madigan decides to run. After years of dismissing the prospect, Madigan seemed almost eager to take on the challenge when we spoke on Election Night in November.

She flatly denied any interest in a state Supreme Court bid, saying such a job would be too boring. She seemed steamed at Chicago reporters, who had asked her whether she could be a governor and raise her young children.

And she pointed to her huge campaign fund, which currently contains about $3.6 million. And one early poll had Madigan leading Quinn 64 percent to 20 percent.

The Daley people say they aren’t factoring Madigan into the equation just yet. If she runs, she runs. But now they aren’t worrying too much about it. We’ll see.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.



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