Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Heard on the Street: The McKenna run for Governor boomlet hits the pause button

The faltering establishment candidates

Rumors are continuing that Andy McKenna, Jr., is getting ready to enter the Republican Gubernatorial Primary. The thinking is that the establishment candidates (Senators Brady and Dillard and DuPage County Board Chairman Schillerstrom) are splitting that vote and none of them is likely to distinguish himself and break out of the back. None of them did anything to change that storyline in the Conservative Summit last Friday.

Senator Brady

Further, the belief that downstate Senator Brady (Bloomington), having received 20% statewide in the Guv Primary in 2006, would have built up significant name recognition is just not panning out. He is ahead in some polls, but not by the margin you would expect with that history.

Senator Dillard

And, the Dillard play isn’t unfolding as he had hoped. It seems as if Dillard’s former boss, the ever-popular, former Governor, Jim Edgar, is not inclined to bless his past protégé. Dillard’s other former boss, Jim Thompson, also has not stepped up to the challenge and it is doubtful if it would help him that much, anyway. It has been more than two decades since Big Jim was on a ballot. Finally, Dillard’s cameo in Obama’s primary ad continues to rub Republicans, especially conservatives, the wrong way.

Chairman Schillerstrom

The only pro-choicer in the field, Chairman Schillerstrom says this campaign is not about the social issues. Instead, he is trying to persuade Republican primary voters that his successful, businesslike approach to Government is just the change that Illinois government needs. The trouble is that there are no signs that his message is catching on outside DuPage County and DuPage is only about 7% of the state.

Adam Andrzejewski

Entrepreneur Adam Andrzejewski has enough money of his own [perhaps a million or two to spend] to make a run for it, but that may not be enough to keep up with McKenna, Jr. who spent two and half million of his own funds and raised two million from his family’s wealthy network in the 2004 U. S. Senate Primary. Of course, that got Andy only 14% and a 4th place ribbon in that seven-candidate field. Not exactly a high rate of return, even by paper company standards.

Proft and Murphy

McKenna is no doubt thinking that Dan Proft’s quick wit, high energy and creative message machine can’t raise enough money to become a serious candidate. Similarly, he probably believes that Senator Matt Murphy (Palatine) doesn’t have the sizzle, seasoning and fire in the belly to go the distance and may drop down to another statewide race, especially if Andy can persuade others in the field to do likewise to build a respectable, Statewide GOP slate for the first time in this Century.

The Republican search for a change agent

The problem with the above analysis is that Republicans realize that this could be a major change/turnaround election for them. On the North Shore, Party operatives are saying things like, “2010 will be the best Republican year in our lifetime.” They will tell you that Speaker Mike Madigan, viewed even by them as the smartest pol in politics, persuaded his daughter, AG Lisa, not to run for Governor or Senator in 2010because he sees very troubled times ahead for his Party. So, Republicans need someone who fits the times—a change agent, a reformer, a politician who stands for shaking up the system.

Winter of our discontent

These same Republicans point to the coming “Winter of our discontent,” by Independents, Republicans and conservative Democrats about Todd Stroger’s record setting county sales tax, Democrat Gov candidates’ Quinn and Hynes promotion of increases in the state income tax, the likelihood that President Todd Stroger will be on the general election ballot, Illinois’ unemployment rate exceeding the national average at more than 10%- and having an impact in some affluent suburbs, the uneasiness throughout the state and nation with what is now perceived as the Democrats’ wasteful bailouts, stimulus and spending, rampant public corruption, and finally with what is now becoming Barack Obama’s faltering nation building and war in Afghanistan.

Can McKenna be the change agent to lead the Republican Party?

These Republicans, who smell the sweet scent of success nationally, statewide and locally, are asking if Andy McKenna, Jr., who was the State GOP Chairman until recently for five declining years in terms of Illinois House, Senate and Congressional seats, can join Cong. Mark [Cap and Trade] Kirk at the top of the GOP ticket and inspire the troops in what is thought to be a “Change,” election. Indeed, as the song goes, they are “tossing and turning all night,” over that question.

Yes sir, that question is enough to give anybody pause, even Mr. McKenna, who was chomping at the bit, just a month ago, to get into the U. S. Senate race, when Kirk, himself, hit the pause button.

Will it be the pause that refreshes? That’s the question we’re hearing on the Street.