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Jubilant Daley camp still faces uphill climb for governor

Updated: August 23, 2013 6:19AM

It’s gonna be Ugh-LEE.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has demurred. Her exit from the 2014 gubernatorial sweepstakes sets the stage for a mano a mano between Gov. Pat Quinn and William M. Daley.

It’s a bitter bummer. A Madigan-Daley-Quinn triage would have been a windfall for the media, a raft of consultants, and political junkies like me. Madigan’s decision dismayed female Democrats eager to rally behind the state’s most accomplished and popular female politician.

So it’s down to the two bald, old white guys. Again. Still, there’s still plenty of drama in store. Enter Quinn, a populist, honest incumbent with competence issues, and Daley, the fat-cat businessman with national credentials and a political family pedigree.

Daley’s camp has been exulting. You could almost hear the chortle last week, when Daley retweeted this “gem” from New York Times correspondent Jonathan Martin: “Madigan news a huge boost to @BillDaleyIL, who didn’t wait on her decision and now has good shot at taking out the unpopular Quinn.”

I love it when new yawkers and D.C. denizens like Martin shout out of their echo chambers, try to decipher Illinois politics — and get it wrong.

Last week, the so-called “unpopular” Pat Quinn was basking in the glow of his master stroke, issuing a veto to withhold legislators’ paychecks until they fix the pension mess in Springfield. The state’s legislative leaders are collectively grinding their political teeth, as they scramble to find a way around Quinn’s smooth move.

Until then, the political winds had been choppy for Quinn. His paycheck ploy reminds me of the old Chesapeake sailor’s adage: “You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust the sails to reach your destination.”

How ugly will it get? Quinn is now leading Daley by five points in a one-to-one matchup, 38-33, according to a new Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll. That’s the same margin as a similar poll taken in January. That’s very close, this far out.

The poll of 1,394 likely Illinois Democratic primary voters was taken July 17, the day after Madigan’s announcement.

The survey also exposed Daley’s biggest vulnerability, and, ironically, something he touts: his role as a top executive at JPMorgan Chase. During the financial crisis, the bank accepted a huge federal bailout and was forced to pay a major legal settlement on allegations of improper mortgage practices.

The poll asked voters: “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who ran a major bank that received federal bailout money, foreclosed on large numbers of Illinois homeowners and engaged in predatory subprime mortgage lending?”

A massive 73 percent of Democratic voters responded that they would be less likely to vote for that candidate.

(In fairness, JPMorgan didn’t need the bailout, but was urged to accept it by the Obama administration, as a strategy to keep the banking system stable.)

It’s surely a loaded question, and a lethal weapon in the form of a Quinn campaign ad, arriving on your local station soon.

Daley may be good at spinning the media hordes, but Quinn won’t need to spin Daley’s resume.

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