Friday, February 24, 2006

Oberweis, 43%; Topinka, 32%; Gidwitz 25%. Maybe.

Jim Oberweis, entrepreneur and candidate for Governor in the Republican Primary, is our featured guest in this Sunday’s taping of Public Affairs at 1:00 pm. If you have suggested questions or topics that you would like to see covered with Oberweis this Sunday, please email your thoughts to this blog [See, below]. There will be no attribution, unless you request it.

The Chicago Tribune, in its most recent poll, placed Oberweis in second place to State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, with a lot of ground to make up, as Oberweis was trailing Topinka 38% to 17%. Ron Gidwitz moved past Senator Brady in that poll, garnering 11% to Brady’s 8 %. [BTW, Andy Martin, who was inexplicably invited by Chicago Public Radio to participate in its Republican Gubernatorial Primary debate this past Monday, is not a credible candidate and is nowhere to be found in the polls].

The Tribune numbers are puzzling, indeed, in the sense that although there are various differences between the candidates, and there is more to life than the liberal-moderate/conservative divide, the aggregation of the vote total for the liberal-moderates-- Topinka and Gidwitz—49 %, is almost twice that of the conservatives—Oberweis and Brady—25 %.

This, of course, is far different from the conventional wisdom that the Illinois GOP is much more conservative than moderate or liberal [especially in the primary], leading us to ask is the conventional wisdom wrong, or is the Tribune poll wrong. The answer is probably a little of one and a lot of the other.

For one, it is not easy to poll likely Republican Primary voters, meaning that the Tribune poll may have included too many Republicans who are neither activist nor likely to vote. On the other hand, the Tribune poll indicated that those who viewed themselves as conservatives were splitting their vote in large part between Jim Oberweis and Judy Baar Topinka. Jim Oberweis thinks that this simply reflects an electorate yet to be informed, through ads, who is who. That’s the optimistic view for Jim.

The pessimistic view is how can Oberweis expect to educate conservatives during the next month that he is closer than Judy Baar Topinka to their views when he has done so little toward that end in two runs for the U. S. Senate nomination and during his run for Governor over the last year, assuming the above poll numbers are accurate. On the other hand, Topinka has only been in the race, in a sense, for the last eight weeks, so maybe Oberweis has “just begun to fight,” to recycle an old phrase. And, maybe the voters are just beginning to learn who the true Judy Baar Topinka is. Maybe. Moreover, under this theory, the more the voters really know Judy, the worse it is for her.

Further, maybe you have to take this argument one last step. It was said first by former Senator Pat O’Malley, and now by many others that the true schism in the Illinois GOP is not between Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers, but between Reformers and Non-reformers. If so, then Gidwitz and Oberweis, as reformers, are fellow travelers. On the other hand, Topinka’s mentor and guru behind her campaign, former two term Governor Jim Edgar, doesn’t buy that distinction, so neither can Judy. Thus, Topinka-Birkett become saddled with the Non-reformer image, not a good label to wear in a year of Reform.

Therefore, if Gidwitz spends another ten million dollars on ads promoting himself and reform, and bashing Judy as the non-reformer, he can move himself up to say, 22%, with most of that additional vote coming from the moderate base of the GOP, held in large part by Topinka, not the conservatives who are with Oberweis and Brady—those folks might like Gidwitz’s new reform mantra, but they find Gidwitz [won’t make a pledge not to raise taxes, wants to expand education spending] hard to swallow, even with Rauschenberger’s soft conservatism added on, as Gidwitz’s Lt. Gov. running mate.

Brady, if he is really a sincere conservative, will see the writing on the wall, will not want to be known as the spoiler, and will drop out soon—transferring his followers to Oberweis. Anything less will fuel the rumors that Brady is working for the Edgar Establishment, and is staying in to help Judy by draining downstate conservative votes from Oberweis.

Joe Birkett, under the above scenario, has little impact in terms of bringing conservatives to Topinka. Too much of a culture clash on that ticket, with conservatives having to swallow Judy both as a liberal moderate, and as a non-reformer.

So, let’s look at the numbers, after Brady drops out, and after a distribution of the 26%, or so, undecided in the Tribune poll, which breaks heavily pro-reform:

Oberweis, 43%; Topinka, 32%; Gidwitz 25%

Please take note that although votes for a conservative candidate are still the minority, under the above scenario, 43% to 57%, reform candidates [Oberweis and Gidwitz] outperform the non-reform candidate [Topinka], 2 to 1. In short, a modified Reagan Revolution comes to Illinois, albeit somewhat late. And, of course, the conservatives and reformers would happily quote 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Frank Easterbrook, “Wisdom come lately is better than wisdom not come at all.” [BTW, Judge Easterbrook and his 7th Circuit colleague, Judge Posner, are the two Economics Twins on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, both of whom came to the Court from the faculty of and still teach at the University of Chicago Law School].

It could happen. Maybe.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at