I was interviewed the other day by National Public Radio about the “campaign” to fill president-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. Most of what I said was left on the cutting-room floor, but my message to the NPR reporter was crystal clear: Ignore all the punditry and prognostication.
It’s been enormous fun to watch all the hopefuls scramble for Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s favor. The governor, by law, fills the vacancy, which was created when Obama resigned on Sunday. Blagojevich hasn’t been this popular with this many politicians since he first took office and was handing out plum jobs and contracts. Times have changed, and pretty much everybody has treated him like a radioactive monster for the past couple of years, so I’m sure he’s enjoying all the recent attention.
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has gone so far as to line up newspaper endorsements, and at one point convinced several Washington, D.C., reporters that he was the frontrunner to replace Obama. He even commissioned a statewide poll which he claims shows he’d be the best candidate of the bunch.
The Politico’s Roger Simon recently pointed to President-elect Obama’s choice of Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth to accompany him to a Veterans’ Day wreath-laying ceremony as a significant clue. Duckworth is on just about everyone’s short list. But some Chicago media outlets have reported that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s advocacy of Duckworth’s appointment might be hurting her. Durbin and Blagojevich don’t have the best relationship, goes the logic. Then again, almost everybody has a lousy relationship with this governor.
The potential appointment list is almost endless. Congressmen like Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky have their hands out. Former statewide officials like Roland Burris have said they’re ready, willing and able to serve.
Pretty much every story published about the vacancy has also mentioned retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, partly because Jones is allied so closely with Gov. Blagojevich.
Jones’ downsides are many. He specializes in crony politics. His family has benefited mightily from state jobs and contracts. He has almost no respect in the media. And his antics have lost him most of the respect he once had in political circles.
Logic would seem to dictate that the governor would use this appointment to finally start turning around his absolutely awful reputation with voters. I mean, you’d think a guy with a 13 percent approval rating would want to nudge that upwards a little.
But when has reason or or logic ever entered into Blagojevich’s playbook? Was the Statehouse war he waged over the last two years reasonable or logical? It tanked his poll numbers, but he kept on fighting. We’re talking about a Democratic governor of one of the most Democratic states in the union who has lower job approval ratings than President George W. Bush. Reason and logic? Please.
The point is that while the scramble for Obama’s seat may be fun to watch, particularly Congressman Jackson’s over-the-top circus, none of the “clues” pointed to in the media probably mean anything. Reporters, pundits and the professional prognosticators are all looking at this in a logical, traditional way. As mentioned above, this is not usually how Governor Blagojevich tends to operate.
The entire spectacle finally became so bizarre that I started to push my own replacement candidate last week. I decided that a longtime commenter on my blog who goes by the name of “Bill” and defends Gov. Blagojevich through thick and thin deserved the Senate seat as much as everyone else. Within 24 hours of starting a FaceBook group for “Bill,” over 160 people had signed up for the cause. That’s almost as many “followers” as two sitting congresspersons attracted to their own FaceBook groups which were designed to bolster their Senate dreams.
Bill’s “candidacy” now has its own blog and three YouTube “campaign” videos, all created by a volunteer. It’s almost a movement.
Yeah, OK, that’s a little over the top. But I figure Bill has just as much of a shot as anyone,
considering who’s doing the appointment.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and the capitalfaxblog.com.