Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Skoien is the likely winner of the Cook County GOP Chairmanship election tonight but will they "show him the money." However, before Skoien counts his chickens or his money, there are a few speed bumps in the next 15 hours. Skoien to O'Malley to Thompson? Tinkers to Evers to Chance. Could it be? As Casey Stengel would say and Karl Rove is asking, does anybody here in the Cook County GOP know how to play this game?

"Committeemen can be slippery," said Paul Froehlich, Schaumburg Republican State Rep. and Committeman, last night. Even though the Cook County GOP election vote is not a secret ballot, in that committeeman in the room can hear the votes being cast [the voting and discussion portion of the session is likely to be closed to the public], committeeman still may say one thing before the vote and then vote the other way.

Who knows, they could even be influenced by what the supporters and candidates say before the vote, or more likely, by someone making them an offer they can't refuse. Nevertheless, Froelich predicted on Tuesday evening that although the vote will be close, Skoien had a slight lead.

Assuming that Froehlich is correct in predicting that the following townships and Ward go with Skoien, then Skoien would seem to have it. As we used to say at the University of Chicago, all interesting questions are ultimately empirical questions, so let's look at the numbers-- the township, ward Committeeman who Skoien is counting on, and their weighted votes. I mean this isn't rocket science.

Maine[Thompson- 7800] , Northfield [Goslin-6900], Lyden [Stevens-4800] , New Trier [Chisum- 5500], Lyons[Peraica- 6500], Palatine [Skoien-9000], Hanover Park[Rauschenberger- 3300], Elk Grove Village[Cheryl Axley-5800], Schaumburg [Froehlich-5900], Riverside[Judy Baar- 1900] and Oak Park[Mayer-1500] Townships and 42nd Ward [Gordon-1900].

Skoien needs about 58,500 votes to win and the above townships and 42nd give him about 57,500 votes (We estimate Cook County R committeeman votes in the 2004 primary at 117,000--about a 25 % decline from 2002).

State Sen. and Primary hero, if not winner, Steve Rauschenberger (Hanover Park- 3300 votes) is said to be supporting Skoien and if he shows up, that should put Skoien over the top. If Rauschy votes by proxy, there could be a successful challenge on his proxy form. Finley(Bremen township-3100 votes) was said to be supporting Peraica-- if he flips to Skoien as are most, if not all, of the Peraica supporters now that Peraica is out, that could put Skoien over the top, without counting Rauschenberger. Joe Hedrick (Niles-5500) is playing his cards close to the vest, but he could put Skoien over the top. And, there are a few wards in the city that could combine to put Skoien over the top.

What could go wrong with the above analysis?

The wieghted numbers are based on votes for Republican committeeman in 2002, as opposed to how many R primary ballots were taken, but they should be closely correlated, with the former being systematically lower, due to drop-off. But, this does have the potential to affect the prediction.

Some of the above committeemen might not be able to get to the Loop to vote, resulting in further proxy challenges, rulings on which can be tricky.

Goslin, who was for Maureen Murphy, might stick with her, notwithstanding that his County District includes Palatine-which should mean that Goslin would kind of like to keep on Skoien's good side.

Finley is under indictment. Putting it simply, people under indictment may be less predictable than those not facing that problem.

Stevens, Mr. Rosemont- Mr. Casino, in Lyden, is certainly a "player," in every sense of that word-- so who knows for sure what he will do, especially with the 10th Casino license still being kicked around like a volleyball between Blago, Lisa, Emil and Speaker Mike, not to mention a few other "players."

Somebody could make one or more of the other committeemen an "offer they can't refuse," or I could even be wrong as to for whom I am saying they are likely to vote.

But, if I were a betting journalist, I would say Gary Skoien will be the new Cook County GOP Chair.

Of course, as we used to say at the University of Chicago Economics Department, the above is a positive, not a normative, analysis. That is, I am predicting what will be, not what should be. At Chicago, we learned, under Milton Friedman, that good economists never make value judgments-- at least not acting purely as economists. Further, five years at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Economics means you are always acting as an economist. And, of course, being tough but fair on "Public Affairs," I, like any other good journalist, never endorse among or within the political parties. I leave that for the brilliant people on editorial boards.

Now, what has Skoien won, assuming he does win? Before he can do anything with the title, he will have to go out to the Party Donors and say. "Show me the money." He could use a little of that Big Jim Thompson style and flair, on display by Big Jim even this week at the 9/11 Hearings [Now, Mr. Clarke, which statements are true, the statements in your book you just had published in 2004 or the statements you gave at your briefing in 2002?], and opposite Dem. cross examiner Richard Ben-Veniste [What issues, Condi? I just asked you to tell me the title of the August 6, 2001, PDB? Who asked about issues?] Perhaps some of that Thompson ability to impress anyone in front of him, to press the flesh and persuade and, finally, to close a deal rubbed off on Gary Skoien when he was a Thompson guy. Pat O'Malley is probably hoping Gary has some of that old Jim Thompson magic, but not too much.

Perhaps Pat will follow Oberweis' lead at the March 17 Unity Party he was not invited to-- and be one of the first tomorrow night to write a check (Earnest Money?) to the Cook County GOP. Will Big Jim Thompson, Jack Ryan, Judy Baar Topinka, Pat O'Malley, Corinne Wood (Lake County, but still), Jim Oberweis, Steve Rauschenberger, Andy McKenna, Jr., Maureen Murphy and Gary MacDougal join in holding up Gary's hand and writing checks of their own to the Cook County GOP? Now, that would be a pretty good start for Gary Skoien.

Jeff Berkowitz is the Host and Producer of Public Affairs and he can be reached at