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Tuesday, April 23

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Now that the elections have entered their, "Huh? Someone's running for office?" phase, it is a good time to give a rundown of what to look for in the coming months in regards to what will likely be the most exciting race, that for US Senate. It's a good time because there's a lull and I'd like to not think about it until around October 23rd.

And I probably won't have to.

The primaries of March 16 proved one thing with quite a bullet: the State of Illinois is now solidly, truely Blue. We are a "safe Democratic" state. This was pretty well understood as early as the 2002 mid-term elections. There were not significantly more Democratic ballots pulled in this election--it was almost identical to the number pulled in 2002--but there were a pitiful number of Republican ballots pulled in comparison to that election, and in a primary this indicates that a significant number of regular voters outside of Cook County crossed over. It also indicates that there will be a lot of political volunteers getting on buses and heading to places like Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and Florida. And it also means George W. Bush will not be "approving this Republican message," too often on Illinois' airwaves. The Republican National Committee will all but abandon Illinois, barring some disaster (or miracle, depending on your taste).

The most astounding result was that of State Senator Barack Obama, who garnered only 10,000 fewer votes than all of the Republican candidates for the Republican nomination combined--all while running in a competitive field of seven candidates. Considerably less astounding but still surprising was that Frank Avila failed to win a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. C'mon, Cook County voters!

Anyway. Much has been made of State Senator Obama's victory and the indicators for the future of politics in the state, so I won't retread old ground. For my part, I think some of this hype has been overblown--Mark Brown comparing him to Abraham Lincoln was a bit much--but the numbers do not lie: people from all over the state came out and made their choice, and although Barack Obama won only four downstate counties, he was not embarassed in the rest, either. Whatever the reason for his blowout victory, it was a blowout.

Just a side note, the candidate I endorsed in the Republican primary got fewer votes than Nancy Skinner.

Most people are writing off this election as a foregone conclusion, and they're right. Well, probably. Jack Ryan seems like a good enough guy insofar as he seems sincere in what he believes in. He certainly understands the issues and his positions are often at least somewhat fair and certainly well thought out. Unfortunately, what he believes in is on the opposite side of the universe from what the great majority of Illinois voters believe in. And if not a "great majority," then at least 50 percent of Illinoisans plus one. My guess is Cynthia White of Centralia, whom both candidates will be courting rigorously.

It isn't so much his strong opposition to reproductive rights, his advocacy of lax gun control laws, or even his support for across-the-board school vouchers. It is his loyalty to George Bush and especially Bush's economic policies that make his candidacy more or less hopeless.

He appears to be pegging his campaign to the chance that Illinois voters will consider Barack Obama entirely too liberal for them.

Already on his website, Jack Ryan has take a few subtle shots at Barack Obama. Ryan released a statement on medical malpractice suits, which goes after a loyal Democratic (and major Obama) donor base, trial lawyers. He also has a link on the front page to a column by GOP stalwart Thomas Roeser of the Sun-Times who insinuates that Obama gives him chills because he is so, so liberal. He better hope Roeser is right, because his only chance is if Illinoisans, who despite their Bluishness this time around are still quite moderate, find out about some supersecret hyperliberal agenda and vote for him to keep Barack Obama out of office and away from the country's highest legislative body.

Unfortunately for him, the accusation of Barack Obama's super-liberalness doesn't hold much water. He is left-of-center to be sure, and even left-of-Illinois-Democrats, but not to a significant (or "dangerous," according to your taste) degree. In an interview with the Windy City Times, for example, Obama expressed a determined support for civil unions and an eventual maturation into "marriage," but argued that calling it "marriage" right off the bat wasn't feasible or politically intelligent. Whatever your stance on the issue, it was the right move politically and indicates a measured calculation on his part in terms of social legislation.

Thomas Roeser's main argument was that Barack Obama would desert Iraq. Perhaps you're thinking, "What? That's crazy! How could a respected and well-informed pundit accuse an American of open willingness to abandon fighting men and women? Surely Barack Obama's desire to pull out of Iraq involves evaluating the situation and handing control over to a trusted international third party, not just up and abandoning our troops!" Well, to be honest with you I may not have been reading very closely. Despite this veneer, I'm not very smart. So you interpret this sentence from the Roeser article yourself:

"Obama's victory would signify abandonment of our troops as with Vietnam."

He is worried, he says, because the war on terrorism is not Barack Obama's top priority--that honor fell to the perenially unimportant issue of something called "healthcare." I wasn't sure what this obscure issue is all about, so I did what any good columnist would do: A google search. A google search for "healthcare" turned up 14,200,000 results. "War on terrorism," which is Jack Ryan's and Thomas Roeser's primary concern, turned up 1,770,000. Shows what I know. Naturally I didn't go through all the results for this "healthcare," but very few -- actually, none -- of them in the first ten pages or so said something like, "I am not worried about health-care," or "what's with all this attention to healthcare?" or "Healthcare: Something I Consider Tertiary."*

Roeser's (and, presumably, Ryan's, since he linked the article right beneath his attractive, grinning face) other indicator of Obama's ultra-liberalness is that he said he would repeal George W. Bush's tax cuts. Well, that is definitely true. I remember when ultra-liberal wackjob George H. W. Bush rolled back the Reagan tax cuts. In the face of a tanking economy. Tofu-eating liberal.

The other issue, of course, is Jack Ryan's divorce papers, (Celebrity Justice link provided for gratuitous picture of Jeri Ryan) which have remained sealed under court order and which will remain so, according to Ryan, in order to protect his nine-year-old son. If there are things in there that will harm his son, I sincerely hope the Obama campaign and all Democratic operatives lay off and ask the press to do so as well. It will only look bad if the Chicago Tribune's current suit to open the files succeeds and there's nothing in there but son-harming-material. That could blow up on the Democrats--not enough to make voters suddenly agree with the Bush tax cuts and over-turning Roe v. Wade, but still. Not nice.

There is a disparate school of thought about Jack Ryan's chances come November as well as how the Democrats should handle Ryan's divorce papers as well as the Daley machine's attitude towards Obama's election. Allow your humble columnist to go on record with his own little addition to this school of thought:

None of it matters.

George W. Bush will not mobilize Illinois Republicans come November. He won't try, and I'm not sure he could succeed if he did. The dismal Republican turnout to the primaries will carry over to the generals in November. When that happens, not only will Barack Obama get all of the votes that went to Democratic candidates in the primaries, but he'll get a significant number of casual voters showing up to vote for John Kerry, too. Barack Obama doesn't want to run for mayor and wouldn't even if he lost the election. And if he did, he may not win. Jack Ryan's divorce records could say, "I divorced him because he's my big snuggly bear and he was sad!" and it still wouldn't matter.

It will be fun watching the campaign between now and October--and interesting to see what tack Barack Obama takes to win over downstate voters (my guess is, "Did you know this guy thinks Bush is good on the economy? Come on! Phil knows what I'm talking about!"), and intriguing to see debates between the articulate, charismatic Barack Obama and the equally charismatic, slightly more handsome but considerably more facial tic-y Jack Ryan.

*Surprisingly, "healthcare" and "of secondary importance" had 692 hits.

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Earl Nicholas / April 7, 2004 8:29 AM

This article is right on. If the Republicans write-off Illinois in the national race, that increases chances of fair-minded people being elected to other offices. Most notable is the 8th Congressional District where Melissa Bean has been identified by both Congressional Quarterly and The New York Times as a potential upset over the long-time but ineffective Phil Crane. Melissa Bean sure could use everyone's help at

Ramsin / April 7, 2004 9:58 AM

Right on, Earl. Phil Crane has got to go--and who better to do it than Melissa Bean! Phil Crane is a remnant from a wacko conservative Illinois that hasn't existed in ten years. Au revoir, Phil Crane, hello Melissa Bean!

Andrew / April 7, 2004 10:28 AM

My dad actually likes Crane because he votes no on everything. He's of the mind that the less government functions, the better it is for the country, and Crane fulfills that goal for him.

Not that that's a reason to keep him, but I think it's part of the reason he's stayed in office this long; a lot of people share my dad's opinion.

Earl / April 8, 2004 4:12 PM

So sad, Andrew, that someone actually could be pleased with a Congressman who has nothing to show in his career except a series of No votes. That doesn't say much for accomplishment, and is why it is time for him to go. Certainly more POSITIVE activity toward the traffic problems in this district would be one thing. Or perhaps affordable Health Care for Seniors. Maybe even concern for the environment and Lake Michigan, our major water source. Hurray for Melissa Bean who believes in all these things.

Peter / April 9, 2004 10:14 AM

Actually, I think thats an admirable trait in a politician. The ability to say no and not enact new legislation.

I'd like to see someone run a "repeal legislation" candidacy.

I'm also going to have to disagree that Illinois is a squarley democrat state. Chicago is democrat, due to the long arm of he Daley machine, but the remainder of the state is not. That includes most of the suburbs.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger / April 13, 2004 5:13 PM

Peter, Illinois is now a solidly blue state, not because of any machine, but because the Texans who have taken over the Republican Party turn off moderate voters. Most of the suburbs (certainly the south suburbs, as well as the North Shore) are flipping Democratic. But - oddly - the congressional delegation is 10-9 Republican. Why? Gerrymandering. If people want more Democratic Members of Congress from Illinois, then we should pull a Tom Delay and redraw the congressional districts in our state to more accurately reflect Illinois voters. There is a state senate bill pending to do just that.


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