Mr. Un-Popularity

From our February 2008 issue: Rod Blagojevich was something of a golden boy when he became the governor of Illinois—a young, charismatic champion of change with powerful backers and presidential aspirations. Now he may be the most unpopular governor in the country. A look at how things fell so completely apart

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From our November 2003 issue: When things were going well for Rod Blagojevich

Nowadays, says Alderman Mell, when he sees friends around city hall or in Springfield they’ll sometimes tease him about his role in promoting Blagojevich’s career: “Here comes Dr. Frankenstein,” they’ll say. “He created the monster.” Mell usually pastes on a smile and makes a wisecrack. But he says his fight with Blagojevich is no laughing matter: “It’s not a happy life right now.” People who know Mell say he doesn’t see his grandchildren as much since the family feud erupted. Even the death of his wife, Margaret, a year ago has not healed the family rift.

Blagojevich has not announced whether he will seek a third term in 2010. He continues to raise money for reelection, albeit not at the fast and furious pace of his previous two campaigns. By the end of June, the last filing period before presstime, Blagojevich had raised $374,352 but spent $767,551, leaving just $283,782 in his campaign coffers, according to state election records. Blagojevich’s expenses included, most notably, $163,770 in legal fees paid to Winston & Strawn. His campaign has doled out more than $1.1 million altogether to law firms, reportedly mostly for legal work related to the investigations into wrongdoing by his administration.

With the broken political relationships and the lingering legal threats, much of the state’s political establishment seems to be treating Blagojevich as if he’s already a lame duck.

Rich Miller refers to Blagojevich’s gubernatorial rule, jokingly, as the “Seinfeld Administration” because the creators of the TV sitcom had a philosophy of “No hugs, and no lessons learned.” He says: “The governor never grows, and he never learns.”

Nowadays, says Alderman Mell, when he sees friends around city hall or in Springfield they’ll sometimes tease him about his role in promoting Blagojevich’s career: “Here comes Dr. Frankenstein,” they’ll say. “He created the monster.”

Political insiders say there’s no shortage of Democrats eyeing the governor’s job. Any of the five Democratic constitutional officers, insiders say, would likely jump at the chance to upgrade to his office. Serious water cooler talk has also swirled lately around Obama, if he loses his presidential bid. “In Obama’s camp, they’re only talking about him running for president,” says a well-informed political fundraiser. “But door number two is the governor, and, trust me, a ‘Draft Obama for Governor’ movement is being discussed everywhere amongst the inner sanctum of the Democratic Party in Illinois. It’s his for the taking.”

Still, political watchers say Blagojevich should not be underestimated. “The office of governor has a lot of power in Illinois,” says Redfield. “And as long as he’s governor, he’ll continue to be a relevant actor.” He’s won every election he’s ever entered. He’s a masterful retail campaigner who has a special knack for working a room. And, of course, he’s a prodigious fundraiser. Says former state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who lost to Blagojevich in the 2006 gubernatorial election, “If he ran in the next election, and he pumped $40 million into slick TV ads, he’d win again.”

Not if Mell can help it, say people who know him. Mell’s friends say he’ll do whatever he can to make sure Blagojevich does not win again. They say he’s enamored of state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and would likely back the 31-year-old former semipro basketball player and Obama protégé should he take a shot at the governor’s office.

Mell won’t say whom he plans to support in the next gubernatorial election. But he adds that Blagojevich has not lived up to expectations. “I really liked Rod,” Mell says. “I thought there was great promise for Rod. I thought he could be the president. He went askew somewhere. Something happened—the power, or whatever. I don’t know.”

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comments
6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

anyone who knows Rod knows he's a fraud. It's a shame but mark my words, the Feds will get him.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Excellent piece that sums up the horror that is our infamous governor. Narsissistic, sociopathic, remorseless bully just about sums it up. It might have been different if he had the brain power and business smarts to back up his ego but he's an empty balloon. If he was smarter, he would resign and save his children the embarrassment of seeing their father do the perp walk. But the stroking of his ego takes precident over all else.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I'd like to recommend a sports related process to the solution of the problems of Governor Rod. My wife and I recently moved back to Illinois after living for 28 years in New Jersey. New Jersey has an excellent Democratic Governor, John Corzine, an Illinois native (Talorville area). How about a trade, Blago for Corzine. We could throw in a supply of Vienna Beef hot dogs or whatever it would take to seal the deal. New Jersey is as comfotable as Illinois with flakes and corruption so I think this is a deal that could definitely be done.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Sounds like a fair trade to me!

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

anyone with a manicured pompador should NOT hold public office

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I thought that part of the job description of the Governor of Illinois was that you had to do time in the "slammer" once you were out of office. It would appear ol' Rod is going to carry on the tradition.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I thought that part of the job description for the Governor of Illinois was that you had to serve time in the "slammer" after you were out of office. It would appear that ol' Rod will be carrying on that tradtion.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

The Governor of Illinois is a prince compared to the idiot who is running Wisconsin. Jim Doyle takes millions of illegal donations to help him make decisions, is "in bed with" any Indian who wants a new casino and the teachers union, stated that he would raises taxes then raises every fee in the state, wants to tax every business out of the state, has a desire to force "universal health care" on Wisconsin taxpayers, etc...

Count your blessings you don't have Jim Doyle as your Governor.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Definition for Narsissistic is Rod Blagojevich,

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

How prophetic must the author of the 1st anonymous post feel after this exciting morning?

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

From outside the state looking in - why on earth do you people keep electing candidates like this???

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

It's not our fault, we try to elect people with back-bone and spine. . . it just so happens that their spine grew in crooked.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

>Dec 9, 2008 01:33 pm
>Posted by Anonymous
>
>From outside the state looking in - why on earth do you people keep >electing candidates like this???

And from what fine state are you from? No skeletons there?

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

"why on earth do you people keep electing candidates like this???"

I for one did not elect this man, I'd have voted for a statue made of horse poop before I'd have voted for him. Both times.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

At least, congratulations are in order: You're going to be rid of him.

Now, let's hope he doesn't name himself Senator from his jail cell...

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

"From outside the state looking in - why on earth do you people keep electing candidates like this???"

They elected this asno and we elected Obama!

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

It is too bad that our rulers are so corrupt.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Anybody or entity can give any amount to anyone running for this office. No limits! On Jan 1, state contractors will have limits, but not anyone else. How corrupting must this be? We have to determine to get this law changed, for starters.

Wow, what a psycho. Thank God for Pat Quinn, and especially for US Attorney Pat Fitzgerald. Obama better not even THINK of taking him out.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Is Blagojevich a Democrat or a Republican?

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

>Is Blagojevich a Democrat or a Republican?

He's a democrat

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