Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Updated Wednesday, June 30, revised 9:20 pm: The Top 10 Republican Senate Candidates.

As they break from the post, some of them not even willing to say they are in the race, some of them saying they are not in the race, listed below are the top 10 people to be the U. S. Senate Candidate from Illinois for the Republican Party, come July 15, with those "most likely," to be the party nominee listed first. I am not saying what should be, simply what is- maintaining the Fair and Balanced approach of no endorsements from "Public Affairs." We discuss, you decide. I have simply ranked them based on who I think is most likely to get the nod and I have listed their pluses and minuses.

Next time, I might do what I do as a legal recruiter, especially for corporate in house counsel searches, i.e., develop detailed specifications for the position and see who comes closest to meeting the specs. Of course, to do that right, you have to talk to your client intensively to get the information to prepare detailed written specs. In this case, the analogue to my client would be Topinka, the State Party Chair, and her press spokesman, Jason Gerwig, has declined to speak with me or even return my calls for the last three days. A busy guy, no doubt, what with Judy's foot surgery and Senator Peter Fitzgerald assessing the Party Brass' performance [See, below].

1. State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, the "Natural." Solid on all state and national policy issues. Strong conservative credentials, economic and social. Articulate. Good Family Man. Not the choice of the State Party Brass. Daggers have been flying in his direction since Jack Ryan stepped down. Looks to many like "screening process," for senate candidates set up by Topinka/Kjellander designed to exclude Steve, in part because of Steve's primary statements about Kjellander [RNC member, friend of Karl Rove, tight with Topinka and powerful lobbyist]. Better fund raiser than given credit for. Matches up well with Obama as a debater. Knows and articulates the issues well. Strong surge at end of 2004 Primary for 21% of the vote, third place finish. Big-Time Bob Kjellander Problem. Speaker Hastert could make that go away and make this happen yesterday. Will he? Problematic that Hastert suggested State Party screening process? Did Kjellander/Topinka twist it to their political advantage? Steve could be the broker to unite Hastert and O'Malley segments of the Party. Has good relationship with both.

2. Andy McKenna, Jr., Very decent guy. Very Family Man. Very Lacking in Sizzle. Can self finance and has strong Establishment support. Establishment feels they could access him and trust him as a U. S. Senator to be responsive to their needs. This is something they have not found to be the case with six years of Peter Fitzgerald. Andy, Sr. is very influential in Chicagoland business community with strong connections and ties to the Tribune Company. Andy, Jr. spent too much time in family business, perhaps. Good credentials as a social conservative, more mixed as an economic conservative. Got better during primary as a campaigner, but still a long way to go for a three month campaign. Virtually no political experience prior to 2004 Senate primary. Finished 4th with 14% of the vote in the primary, even though was closest to Jack Ryan in terms of amount spent on Campaign and raised the most funds. Could have problems debating Obama.

3. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, has surprised before. Good Family Man. Has the independent persona that could win over Ds and swing voters, and yet energize the grass roots conservative base. Has a voting record, oddly enough, in the middle-- according to the National Journal-- yet still admired by conservatives, notwithstanding his unwillingness to cultivate grass roots socially. Kjellander Problem. Hastert Problem. Topinka Problem [from doing things such as the tongue lashing Peter gave Judy Baar and others in state Party leadership today for Judy's conflict as Party Chair and potential Gubernatorial Candidate, and the party leaders' failure to back Jack Ryan, especially during the last few weeks]. Many other State Party Brass problems. Probably not willing to spend another 15 million of his [perhaps declining] portfolio value, which is probably the main reason we are here doing this. Might be surprisingly good match-up to Obama as debater. Now much more confident and knowledgeable about the issues, of course, than when he entered the Senate. And, as a result, better with the press. Also, if the liberal press could get over Peter's strong Pro-Life views, they might come to admire his strong streak of independence--sort of Illinois' version of John McCain.

4. Jim Thompson, Great name recognition, although there has been some decay over last 14 years. Could do it easily, but for Hollinger thing. Sung to the tune of "Nobody does it better than Big Jim." Bright, personable and very experienced. Respected Nationally. Did well on cross-examination of Richard Clarke in 9/11 Hearing. Could step right into the U. S. Senate as a person of stature. Probably too moderate for conservative base. Moderate thing could be a big problem in terms of not energizing the base. Might make some of that up with attractiveness to Ds and swing voters. Would be interesting match-up with Obama in debates. Knows his stuff.

5. Tom McCracken, "Natural No. 2," moving up, but perhaps has "issues." Recent Divorce. Articulate, Intelligent, Conservative and significant political experience. Did very well as speaker at Chicago Conservative Conference in May, 2003. Has not lost his ability to shine since he left elected office. Good civic and professional stuff with RTA. Knows and can articulate the issues. Would match up well in debates with Obama. Good lawyer. A trial lawyer? Is that an issue for Tom in the R party?

6. Ron Gidwitz, Could Self Finance easily, very good civics, very moderate, smart, liked and trusted by business community and done a lot in area of education. Lacks sparkle, fading. Has been working with Serafin and Associates, and as a result, much more polished speaker than was, but may not be ready for three month campaign. May not be ready to debate Obama. Has attractive family, good family guy and about to celebrate his 29th Anniversary. Moderate, pro-choice, social views would be a problem for the R base. Liked by party brass. Has raised mucho money for them.

7. Bob Schillerstrom, Chairman of the DuPage County Board and smooth, insider-- but eyes on 2006- probably won't invest his "capital," in this one. Reasonably polished, public speaker. Turned during last year into O'Hare Airport expansionist. Chicago business and Tribune will like that. Tribune will also like his Pro-Choice, moderate views, but those views would be a problem with R base and will be a problem for 2006 primary. If he changes his mind and wants this, could be a sort of compromise, or place-holder choice. That could help him with name recognition and party support for 2006.

8. Jayne Thompson, Has good last name recognition, good appellate lawyer, but why her? Dillard is suggesting she be considered. Perhaps the party elders think it would be good to have at least one woman in the mix, for image's sake, if nothing else. Corinne Wood apparently does not prefer DC to Lake Forest, and even moderates and supporters of Corinne such as Cook County GOP Chairman Gary Skoien have criticized Corinne's 2002 gubernatorial primary effort. Back to Jayne-- Good civics, but not like Ron-includes Library Board. Not enough there there to be a serious candidate unless top 7 falter, and even then, doubtful.

9. Jim Oberweis, Nicer guy than people think, but Sizzle of wrong kind, especially for "W". 25%, 2nd place, finish in 2004 Senate primary; 2nd place finish in 2002 senate primary so has base and must be respected, but not much chance of getting the nod. Still some hangover with Pro-lifers from 2002 Campaign Taliban comment. Smart, got much better as campaigner from 2002 to 2004. Knows the issues. Could debate Obama. Just not his year. Made wrong move, as it turns out, to take on Bush in Primary. But for that, he might have been a contender now.

10.Patrick Fitzgerald, Daley-George Ryan Combine Choice. The Combine would do almost anything to get Patrick out of U. S. Attorney's office, including making him a U. S. Senator. Of course, as a Senator, he might be able to influence Bush to do what Peter did, bring in another Patrick. Also, given that JB Topinka is under investigation by U. S. Attonrey's office, would this be a conflict for her to propose? Perhaps, so. Well, there is always someone else to suggest it. Kjellander? Patrick probably knows, with Peter gone, his days are numbered no matter who wins the Presidency. Could be the intellectual Arnold Schwarzanegger of Illinois Politics. Single, and sociable, I hear. High on integrity [Carol Marin test], but not much known about his politics, or his domestic and foreign policy positions [although, obviously strong on anti-terrorism]. In terms of style, would be interesting debate match-up with Obama. However, his integrity would probably prevent him from even considering an offer to run for the Senate from the state GOP leadership in light of the above.