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Bill Daley for gov? Not so fast, folks

Former White House Chief Staff Bill Daley City Club Chicago Thursday December 20 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley at the City Club of Chicago, Thursday, December 20, 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:21AM

Bill Daley is once again mulling, cogitating, considering, speculating and instigating. That elusive dream. For months, in appearances and interviews with eager reporters, Daley has fueled speculation that he might run in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor.

Last week at a breakfast fund-raiser for the Misericordia Home, Daley said, “I am giving it a lot of thought,” Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Natasha Korecki tweeted.

“His head must be hurting!” I tweeted back.

Thinking, thinking, thinking. For years, he’s thought about governor. He’s thought about the U.S. Senate.

It’s no surprise Daley would hanker to place his hand on the Bible and swear to serve. He possesses a blue-chip resume. Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, top-tier executive with JP Morgan/Chase, chief of staff to Barack Obama, high-status fund-raiser, a mainstay on corporate boards. And the shiniest bauble in his political treasure chest: son, brother, uncle in the Daley family dynasty.

Yet, he’s never been able to pull the trigger and actually run for elective office.

The rest of the world may have the flu, but the media has contracted a bad case of Daley-itis. My colleagues have been aggressively promoting a Daley matchup with Gov. Pat Quinn. The story line: Quinn is a weak incumbent and vulnerable to a challenge from a hard-knuckled businessman who could sweep in and cure all that ails the state. A recent newspaper headline declared Daley to be a “Quinn foe,” even though the former banker has been saying mostly warm and fuzzy things about the governor.

I’m an outlier on this one. Daley is a paper tiger. His base is rich but thin. His big-shot credentials will lure the corporate titans and investment fat cats. Has a businessman ever moved straight to the governor’s mansion in Illinois? Not in my lifetime.

He possesses few evident ties that would pull away Quinn’s longtime (although increasingly tenuous) base: African Americans, Latinos, women and progressives. For black voters, a Daley candidacy is dead on arrival.

The Daley name is a repellant in other quarters, particularly downstate.

Despite media reports, Daley has denied that he is doing any polling. But just in case that’s not true, you can assume those concerns are surfacing.

Daley is “genuinely conflicted,” says Don Rose, a longtime Daley watcher and Chicago political consultant. “He has a strong urge to do what the rest of his family has done and be in public service, elective office.”

The downside: Governing Illinois “is a whole lotta work,” Rose added. Illinois is mired in an economic, financial and political crisis born of decades of neglect by many governors and legislative leaders. If elected, he would be “spending the first three years of his term picking up the droppings.”

If Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan steps into the fray, it’s all academic. A Madigan run for the nomination is a sure-fire cure for Daley-itis. Then the headlines will read, “Daley who?”

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