Governor Sunshine

From our November 2003 issue: Things could not be better for Rod Blagojevich. He loves politics, and he has won every election he has entered (with help from his father-in-law, a clout-heavy alderman). The govenorship is his focus now, he insists, but this look at his personal history suggests he hopes for much, much more.

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Mike Ascaridis, who recalls his 13-year-old friend saying, “I wouldn’t mind being President someday,” sounds convinced that Blagojevich plans to run at some point.

“He really is very smart,” says Jan Schakowsky. “I don’t laugh at that idea [of his running for President] at all.”

To Bill Lipinski, Blagojevich is an obvious player: “He’s 46 years of age, governor of one of the largest states of the Union,” Lipinski notes. “It would be surprising if he doesn’t think of running for President.”

“I like my job as governor,” Blagojevich says. “If I do a great job as governor, then opportunities present themselves. If I don’t, then it’s moot.”

One thing is certain: Blagojevich had a grand time in Hollywood last June. Still bursting with excitement a few weeks after his return, he launched into a monologue describing a small dinner at which celebrities could make a campaign contribution. Calls came in from actors James Caan and Sylvester Stallone, whose movies The Godfather and Rocky are the governor’s all-time favorites.

He and Stallone made plans to see each other the next day, but in the meantime, according to Blagojevich’s account, he told the actor, “It’s just a thrill talking to you, and now that I have you on the phone, let me tell you how much I’ve admired you over the years. Especially, of course, Rocky-your creativity where you had to believe in something, your courage to be able to do it.”

And then, Blagojevich recalled, he quoted for Stallone from the LP soundtrack of Rocky: “You wanted a symphony of powerful men and lonely women, of human ships that crash in the night.” And Stallone told Blagojevich, “Wow! Gray Davis never said that to me.”