Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yawn—You Mean There Was a Primary in Illinois?

A voter--maybe--flocks to the Illinois Primary Polls.

Coming into this week the media would have us believe that there was great excitement from one end of the State of Illinois to the other over a Presidential Primary election that finally “really matters.”  Establishment favorite and delegate count leader, Mitt Romney was coming off embracing losses to Tea Party/Inquisition favorite Rick Santorum in the Deep South.  

 Romney unloaded a ton of money on ads painting Santorum as a “Washington insider” and “big spender.”  Santorum stumped the state, but especially conservative Downstate counties ratcheting up the culture war crazy at every stop.  Newt Gingrich wandered around bumping into the furniture to no good purpose—he was the only candidate who made a McHenry County appearance despite our reputation as a treasure trove of GOP voters.  Ron Paul got ignored and complained about it.

In the end Romney romped to a convincing victory.  Nobody loves him.  Most of his voters cannot stand him.  But Illinois Republican voters, especially in the suburbs and Collar Counties, are slightly less rabid than the new norm of the party.  And they like “centrist” candidates who “can win” a general direction.  Despite Romney’s own ever accelerating drift to the far right in search of votes, Illinois voters probably decided that he really didn’t mean it and would correct to the center before the election. 

 (99% of precincts reporting)
Mitt Romney
424,434
46.8%

Rick Santorum
317,869
35%

Ron Paul
84,433
9.3%

Newt Gingrich
72,059
7.9%

Other
9,055
1%



But the big news is that despite the best weather for Primary election in history and all of that hype, Republican stayed away from the polls in droves.  Record low turn-outs were reported across the state, in most cases less than 25% of registered voters.  Republican voters, especially conservatives have traditionally had a reputation for crawling to the polls over broken glass if necessary.  It’s how they sometimes win against greatly numerically superior, but far less motivated Democratic and independent voters in General Elections.  Today, however the vast majority of Republican voters surveyed he field of clowns piling out of the tiny car and were deeply unimpressed.  It is hard to see how the charismatically challenged Romney will be able to rally them in November, even against a Black/Muslim/Marxist/elitist/alien.

Barack Obama is smiling in Washington tonight.  Not only will he not have to expend unnecessary time and money keeping Illinois on the reservation this November, but he garnered—once again—every delegate vote in the state for the Democratic National Convention.  Despite grumbling on the left, he will be at the helm of a united party.  The Republicans, meanwhile, seem to be disintegrating in front of our eyes.

True, the Democratic vote turn-out was also light.  But there were also, aside from some Congressional races, few contests to excite voters.  And those Congressional primaries largely had clear winners, most of them entirely credible even against Republican incumbents this fall.

The most closely watched Democratic race was in the new 8th District centered on Chicago north and western suburbs Tammy Duckworth, the charismatic combat helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq and served as Obama’s Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs, had an easy victory over Raja Krishnamoorthi, an attractive candidate with a bright political future if he can get in a primary he can win.  Neither candidate went negative during the campaign and Raja, as he is universally know, came out not only graciously but enthusiastically for Duckworth.  Duckworth will face an unhappy Representative Joe Walsh, the loudmouth Tea Party favorite who found himself in an almost wholly new district.  Walsh has not only attracted attention for loopy appearances on Fox News but for being a notoriously deadbeat dad.  This will be Duckworth’s race to lose this fall.  With a ton of national money she should cream Walsh.

The 2nd District stretching from the heart of Chicago’s South Side deep into the rural cornfield to the south even beyond the Collar Counties, attracted attention because it pitted veteran incumbent Jessie Jackson, Jr.  against a respected former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who ran as a good-government reformer.  Jackson became enmeshed in the Rod Blagojevich scandals.  Although never charged, he has been identified as the politician who allegedly dispatched a proxy to over campaign cash in exchange for appointment to Barack Obama’s Senatorial seat.  He remains free, but under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, because Federal prosecutors evidently can’t prove that the agent acted with Jackson’s explicit prior approval or knowledge.  As if that wasn’t enough, last year he was caught cheating on his independently powerful wife, Alderwoman Sandi Jackson with a highly attractive Washington blonde.  Either or both of those would sink the average politician.  But the two Jackson kissed and made up and he remains extremely popular with his South Side base.  His steadfast promotion of a new third airport south of the city has even attracted job hungry white voters in the rural fringes.  Halverson ran an aggressive campaign that highlighted Jackson’s ethical problems.  She also counted on the addition of new territory in the south of the district to bring out white voters for her.  In the end she could not beat the unanimous support of the Democratic establishment from Obama on down or Jackson’s healthy war chest.  The Congressman blew Halverson out of the water by a not-even-close margin of 71.2% to 28.8%.  He will face a white Republican of no consequence.

Out in the new 16th District in western Illinois incumbent Republican Don Manzullo faced a one term Tea Party Congressman Adam Kinzinger.  Manzullo used to represent much of McHenry County, but lost the whole eastern part of his district in re-apportionment and picked up unfamiliar counties deep Down State.  Despite a poster-boy conservative record, Manzullo was painted as a go-along-get-along Republican and the youth Kinzinger pasted him.  Unfortunately no Democrat in the heavily Republican district filed for the primary, although County Chairmen in the district may now appoint a candidate.

Closer to home are two other districts covering portions of McHenry County that Republicans are expected to hold in November.  In the new 6th District, which includes a large chunk of Joe Walsh’s former turf Representative Peter Roskam was the beneficiary when state and national Republican leaders leaned on Walsh not to go head to head with another incumbent.  Roskam, while not as flashy as Walsh, has a virtually identical conservative voting record.  He will now face Democrat Leslie Coolidge, who won a convincing outright majority in a three way race.

In the new 14th District, including a chunk of McHenry County, another Republican incumbent, Representative Rep. Randy Hultgren will face Dennis Anderson, a former health care services executive and Lake County resident.  Anderson easily turned back a youthful Jonathan Farnick, who once made a Quixotic challenge to former Congresswoman Mellissa Bean.  Anderson coasted to a 71.2% to 28.8% victory.

Both Coolidge and Anderson will get solid support from local Democrats, but unless one or both of them can convince the Democratic National Congressional Campaign Committee or powerful and well-heeled super-pacs to divert money from Duckworth, they will have a hard time making headway in the Red counties—that is unless the National Republican ticket implodes, something that does not seem entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

Locally in McHenry County except for the two congressional races there was little to excite voters.  There were no local contested races and Democrats were only on the ballot uncontested in County Board races.  It is possible that candidates for County offices and State Senate and House seats might yet get on the November ballot by the caucus process.

The lack of contests meant that the Democratic turnout was extraordinarily low.  In fact the lowest in my more than 20 years as a Precinct Representative.  In my home precinct, Nunda Township 5, only 20 Democratic ballots were pulled.  That is only half of a steady average of 40 votes in Presidential primary years.

The Democratic Party of McHenry County will meet tonight at 7 pm at McHenry County College to discuss the results and plan for the upcoming campaign season. The public is welcome to join us. 

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