Bill Daley’s sudden and surprisingly ungracious exit from the Illinois gubernatorial race has been pretty well chewed over, but many analysts seem to have gone along with his claim that he thinks he would have won.
I beg to differ.
Without exactly calling him a prevaricator, I believe he would still be running if he really thought he would win. However, all the signs suggested that he would not defeat the “accidental” incumbent Pat Quinn. Daley clearly believes Quinn is a twerp and a disaster — and who wants the ignominy of being beaten by a twerp and a disaster?
Public polling showed Quinn ahead of the youngest and smartest of the Daley, clan and I’d guess Daley’s own polling and focus groups agreed. The Daley name is no longer magic. On the contrary, his brother Richie’s numbers were underwater because of the notorious parking meter privatization deal, among other bits of notoriety exposed soon after he left office. Bill was in effect a man with a terrific resume but no constituency.
Further, Quinn won the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party and was apparently on the way to winning the party’s statewide endorsement as well. Therein lies the rub.
I believe Daley’s nasty comments — tagging Quinn as a sure loser in the general election — came in large part because of rejection by the party his father and brother built. There he stood — rejected in favor of a twerp and a disaster. Quite a few of the committeemen who either voted for Quinn or voted “present” owed at least part of their careers to one or the other of the Mayors Daley, and Bill might justifiably feel he was owed some loyalty.
One can hardly blame Bill for being embittered by the rejection. Such was the bitterness that it led Bill to break the rules of etiquette about dropping out of a race, at which time one usually wishes the remaining guy good luck or at least stays silent. Instead Bill went so far as to leave open the notion that he might not even vote for Quinn in the general election.
What’s this? A Daley voting Republican? Well, people forget that long ago his father first won office as a Republican, though it was all part of a sham.
As to the reason he gave for dropping out, that he really couldn’t face the idea of a brutal campaign and two terms as governor trying to rescue a state sinking in debt, well, that makes a lot of sense. A rational, 65-year-old guy who had already succeeded financially — to say the least — with a couple of successful stints in high-level public service might comfortably retire or go into a far less nerve-wracking, less thankless gig in private industry.
Bill has all the credentials one could ask of a candidate. He comes from a family that has succeeded in electoral politics for two generations. He might find the job of governor daunting, but I don’t think he would skip the opportunity to serve unless he was fairly certain he would be defeated on the way.
Political consultant Don Rose writes for the Chicago Daily Observer, where this column was posted.