Monday, March 08, 2004

Tom Roeser’s “Political Shoot-out,” [WLS- 890 AM radio] last night was a blend of a McKenna infomercial and a political firing squad taking aim at Jack Ryan, the leading U. S. Senate candidate [based on the polls] in the Republican Primary.

It appeared that Roeser intended his show to provide at least a somewhat impartial analysis of the Senate primary races. We were told that one of Roeser’s guests, Tom Serafin [of Tom Serafin and Associates] is not currently consulting with any of the Senate candidates and Serafin seemed pretty “fair and balanced,” which seems appropriate for someone linked to Fox.

Roeser’s other guest, Charlie Johnson, was described as a consultant to Andy McKenna, Jr.’s, campaign. Roeser, a few times during the show, asked for Johnson to put on his “analyst’s” hat and talk about the race somewhat objectively. It never happened. Most of the show was about what a clear choice Andy was to Charlie [not surprising considering he is paid by Andy], with some occasional mention by Serafin about Rauschenberger being his favorite and McKenna his No. 2.

For example:

Tom Serafin: So, it is about true believers [in the primary], right?

Charlie Johnson: It really is. And, if you can get the true believers fired up, they are going to get out and they are going to turn out the vote and we are going to do that.

Tom Roeser: The difference is that the true believers were all on the side of Salvi versus Kustra who had sort of a corporate organization. Now, the true believers are scattered between Rauschenberger, some true believers for Oberweis, some true believers for your guy [McKenna] [Note, no mention of Jack Ryan]—I mean it is not a sort of black and white thing, I mean would you agree, Charlie?

Johnson: Yeah, I think you are right—that has been one of the more difficult things of this primary season—that it has been spread around…

Roeser: I recall when they were looking for a Pro-Lifer to run against Bob Kustra,,,

Johnson: And, I tried to tell them, Tom, I was a strategist …if everyone would just listen to me, I did it from the start, we’d get it right, Andy McKenna is the guy

Roeser: Okay, Okay, Okay- we will see

Johnson: Well and one thing is important. He [McKenna] has released everything. There are no skeletons there. He has released all of his business dealings and taxes.
Political Shoot-out, WLS 890 AM Radio, March 7, 2004

Well, there it is folks—if you want to know who will win, and perhaps who should win, just ask yourself, “Who has released everything.”

Throughout most of last night’s Roeser show, the polls were dismissed as being irrelevant in the primaries. The discussants cited to Fitzgerald, whom they said had trailed Didrickson by 12 polling points and Salvi, who they said had trailed Kustra by 30 polling points.

However, although Roeser mentioned that Jack Ryan was ahead in the polls, nobody mentioned that Jack Ryan has won all but one of the 10 [and the one Ryan did not win went to Oberweis], or so, independent polls by considerable margins [recently with Jack in the 30s and 40s and Andy, in third place, in the single digits]. I don’t think this polling pattern is even close to the Fitzgerald and Salvi situations.

Roeser also quoted Jim Durkin [who has endorsed Rauschenberger] as saying, “I don’t think Jack can take a punch.” Well, perhaps, but in terms of who will win the Republican Primary, can Andy or Steve throw one, or take one, for that matter.

Let’s take a look at some uncertain swings by the would be boxers:

Jeff Berkowitz: You seemed to jump on the criticism, but not so clearly, of Jack Ryan regarding opening up his divorce records [that are] under seal. Could you clarify that here?

Andy McKenna: I am just embracing generically the notion of disclosure. My focus that I established back on February 12th is that I did release a code of ethics that I asked all candidates to follow-- release 5 years of your income tax [records] to all terms of-- I don't have any information that suggests to me that there is a problem here that would fit, that requires disclosure, but I think that the more transparency on behalf of any candidate is great, you know and I don't know any more about this-

Another media member: So, are you saying that Mr. Ryan should disclose the records or should not disclose the records?

McKenna: There was a question raised about it. Yes, I think generically, generally speaking, disclosure is good.

Another Media Member: But what about Mr. Ryan. What about his child custody records that are sealed in Los Angeles?

McKenna: I don't know anything about that

Another Media Member: So, are you saying he should not or should disclose?

McKenna: I don't know anything about that

Media Member: Do you want them released or you don't want them released?

Steve Rauschenberger: I don't care about that issue. I care about why he is not here to explain them.

Jeff Berkowitz: What is there to explain? What do you know that causes you to ask that he release his divorce records that are under seal?

Steve Rauschenberger: I don't know where you have been. We just saw the whole affair play out in the Democratic Primary of Blair Hull and the sealed-

Berkowitz: It was public that he [Hull] had an order of protection [issued on him]. Do you have similar or comparable information about Jack Ryan?

Rauschenberger: It is not my job to research Jack Ryan. I don't have opposition research people. I just want to know why Jack Ryan is not here, representing himself before the people he would like to vote for him.
Press Conference at WTTW after the Republican Senate Candidate discussion on Chicago Tonight, March 3, 2004.
And, let’s take a look at what Rauschenberger said about Andy McKenna before Rauschenberger started focusing on Jack Ryan’s forum attendance:

Steve Rauschenberger: Does he [McKenna] believe that the procurement process in government ought to go to the lowest bidder or does he say, “I get to pick favored people.”

Berkowitz: I think he says we should give a priority to United States companies.

Rauschenberger: I want American companies to be competitive and I want them to win the bids, but I don’t want—

Berkowitz: So, that’s a difference, that’s a difference between you and Andy?

Rauschenberger: No, that’s not a real difference. Andy does not know what else to talk about.
Interview of State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger on “”Public Affairs,” which was taped on Jan. 8, 2004 and aired previously in late January, and the above clip will air this week in the suburbs and next Monday night in the City of Chicago on “Public Affairs.” See, below, for suburban and city airing schedule of “Public Affairs.”

Roeser also asked Serafin, “Who would be the strongest Republican candidate, apart from whether or not he could get the nomination.” Serafin responded that he would rank Steve Rauschenberger first and Andy McKenna would be a close second. Defending his choice of Steve, Serafin referred to Rauschenberger’s depth of knowledge of the issues, as well as a number of other items to support his choice. As to his choice of McKenna, Serafin gave no explanation.

Both Serafin and Johnson agreed that the Republican nominee would have to be really good to win in the general election because whoever it is would start from 15 points behind the Democratic nominee. To Charlie Johnson, this meant that the nominee shouldn’t have any skeletons-- and his candidate did not. To Serafin, this meant that the candidate should have no nicks in the armour.

Serafin indicated that “they all are in the race, regardless of their resources.”

Finally, Roeser took a swipe or two at Jack Ryan for not showing up at several of the candidate forums, suggesting this was a further indication that Jack couldn’t take a punch.

However, Gov. Blagojevich didn’t show up at the City Club of Chicago forum during his primary, and I believe he missed a few other primary forums. Although this may have reflected that Blagojevich was the polling leader at the time, his lead was much smaller than Jack Ryan’s. Further, not too many people concluded that Blagojevich couldn’t take a punch.

In short, Roeser’s show seemed very peculiar in purpose and result.
Although Roeser often invites partisan candidates, office holders and staff as guests, one week before an election, what is the point of inviting a shill to help with analysis. If Roeser was short of guests, why not have Serafin on by himself. At least he is not being paid to hawk for one of the candidates.

And, if you are going to invite a McKenna guy, why not balance things out by inviting a Jack Ryan guy. Perhaps Roeser did, but Roeser did not say so.

Last night, Roeser and Johnson discussed some of Jack Ryan’s weaknesses. Shouldn’t they have discussed some of Andy’s, as well.

Charisma is a fairly important political trait, which most would agree Jack has. Andy, on the other hand, was assessed as extremely bland by the late dean of local political analysts, Steve Neal. It is well known that Andy’s own staff worries about him being expressionless, not exactly a plus for campaigning. His message is weak, at best. He speaks in a monotone. His base is almost not identifiable. His organization appears wobbly. His campaign does have quite a bit of money.

Tolbert Chisum, New Trier Township Republican Organization Committeeman, whose organization voted to endorse Jack Ryan on the first ballot, predicts a fourth place finish for Andy McKenna, Jr., behind Jack Ryan, Jim Oberweis and Steve Rauschenberger. I would say Tolbert knows Andy and the other candidates reasonably well, has had a good chance to observe all of the Republican candidates, knows a good cross section of people in the Republican Party and is probably less biased than Charlie Johnson. Moreover, I have talked to a number of grassroots Republicans and I would say that Tolbert’s assessment is well within the mainstream of grassroots Republican thought.

As to Serafin’s statement that anyone in the Primary can win, regardless of resources, that is a nice thought but not one I would put any money on. Based on who has Money, Organization, Base and a good Message, the basic ingredients of any winning race, I think we can safely predict that the winner in the Republican Primary will surely come from the top three candidates identified by Committeeman Chisum and I would add that there is a strong likelihood that the winner will be Jack Ryan.

Make no mistake about it. I have no interest in promoting any candidate in either Senate Primary. All of what I say, above, regarding who I or anyone else thinks will win has nothing to do with who I think should win. That subject I don’t get into.

I have had Andy, as well as all but one of the other 13 senate candidates on my show, and I like them all. But, doing an objective analysis has nothing to do with who I like, or don’t. As I do a fair and balanced show, I have not endorsed nor stated my support for any of the candidates. But, I do like to see a balanced discussion on any political discussion show and clearly that was absent last night on Tom Roeser’s show. And, that is the exception, not the rule, for the Roeser show.