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Madigan Reconsidering Illinois Senate Race

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan may run for the Senate in 2010 after all. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is reconsidering the possibility of running for the Senate in 2010, according to several sources familiar with her thinking.

Madigan, widely considered the 800-pound gorilla in the state's politics, had previously flatly ruled out a Senate bid in 2010 -- insisting that all of her attention is on the governor's race next year.

But, with Gov. Pat Quinn (D) riding high after having replaced disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and a new poll conducted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showing her cruising to the Senate seat, Madigan is at least entertaining the possibility of running to join the world's greatest deliberative body. Madigan would likely still start as the favorite in the governor's race but even those close to her acknowledge that the path to the Senate is less cluttered.

If she runs, she would drastically shake up the current Democratic field. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is widely seen as the current frontrunner but would likely struggle to keep his support from the party establishment in the face of a Madigan candidacy. (Madigan's father, Mike, is the powerful speaker of the Illinois state House.)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky is also seriously considering the race but almost certainly wouldn't challenge Madigan in a primary. Chris Kennedy, the son of former Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the president of Merchandise Mart, is has conducted a poll to test a possible candidacy.. Appointed Sen. Roland Burris has yet to make any announcement about his future political plans but is widely regarded as superfluous to the conversation as he was badly damaged from his ties to Blagojevich and his decision to to raise money for a re-election bid in the first three months of the year.

Madigan is far from a sure thing to run for the Senate. There are at least two reasons why she won't run: she covets the governor's office and she is sitting on more than $4 million in a state campaign account that could not be transferred to a Senate bid. (Quinn has tried to neuter Madigan by proposing that no money could be carried over to the governor's race in 2010 but it's not clear that is going anywhere.)

Still, the prospect of claiming President Obama's old Senate seat at a time when Washington is undeniably the center of the political world and governors around the country are being forced to either raise taxes, slash programs or both could well be more attractive to Madigan than in months and years past.

If the DSCC can land her, it's a major recruiting success that could solve a potentially major problem in Illinois.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 11, 2009; 11:27 AM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , Senate  
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JakeD is a paid Republican troll! Don't listen to anything he says. He hasn't completed high school yet so his thoughts haven't been fully thought out.

Only an idiot thinks Ditka would be a good candidate. Him and Keys right? They're the winning combination! I think Ditka would be like Lynn Swann, their opponent would have an automatic pass. Ditka would be like getting a bye in a tournament.

Posted by: Kman23 | May 12, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Just like it was "hilarious" to see Reagan debate Carter? Careful what you wish for.

Posted by: JakeD | May 11, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

That's called "name recognition", jakey. Nothing more.

It would have been hilarious to actually see Ditka debate the issues. It would have been a precursor to the palin fiasco of a debate with Biden.

Posted by: jasperanselm | May 11, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that Chris remembers back in 2004, when Ditka was approached about running against Obama, ABC released a poll taken by 21st Century Campaigns LLC of Chicago. It conducted the poll from July 3 through July 5. Steve Denari, CEO of 21st Century, noted that he had not seen such a strong showing for a political outsider since the previous October, when 21st Century polled Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead for California Governor.

The polling results were as follows:

Mike Ditka 58%
Jim Oberweis 16%
Steve Rauschenberger 12%
Others/Undecided 14%

Coach Ditka could have beaten Barack Obama (and saved us this national nightmare ; )

Posted by: JakeD | May 11, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

You guys REALLY think that Burris could beat Ditka?! LOL!!!

Chris, what say you?

Posted by: JakeD | May 11, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Ditka unbeatable?

Did you forget your meds today, Jakey?

Posted by: jasperanselm | May 11, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Oh, how I hope the repubs run Mike Ditka. Anyone on the democratic side can beat him, even Roland Burris.

I would prefer Alexi to Lisa Madigan, but I would rather see her as Senator then Governor as long as her father is Speaker.

I will not vote for her as Governor until her father gives up his Speaker post.

Posted by: bdl0715 | May 11, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Mike Ditka is the bottom of the barrel? I can't think of ANYONE the Democrats could run to beat him. Maybe he can be convinced this time around that all sorts of unintended consequences happen if he doesn't run again? Maybe, this time the Democrat will turn out to be worse than Hitler (and, no, I'm not referring to Annie Duke ; )

Posted by: JakeD | May 11, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Did you happen to call anyone "familiar with her thinking" in Illinois? Because this is new to those folks.

Posted by: capitolfax | May 11, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

This is great news for Democrats. The polling that CC refers to shows Madigan killing the likely Republican Mark Kirk (49-33), with Kirk tying giannoulias 35-35. The poll can be found here:

Posted by: mjames2 | May 11, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Scraping the bottom of the barrel there Jake. Better throw in the towel on this one; no repub is going to win the seat.

Posted by: jasperanselm | May 11, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

What about Gary Sinise, or Mike Ditka again?

Posted by: JakeD | May 11, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Madigan's other huge obstacle to getting elected governor is many people in IL just don't want to see so much state power concentrated in one family's hands. It's as big or bigger an obstacle as Quinn. Once her dad Mike Madigan retires that problem goes away. That's gonna be far into the future though.

Posted by: markg8 | May 11, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Illinois and Pennsylvania are hot topics with you! My two favorite states. Why does everyone think being a senator is peaches-and-cream? Getting elected is a lot of work and raising the money to get reelected is your full-time other job. There are 100 other people in the room, all with egos just as big as yours. Most of your work starts and ends with compromise. Sure, better than being a congressman, but Tom Ridge could see the downsides (and they are bigger on the GOP side of the aisle), and so can Lisa Madigan.

Much nicer to be governor. You rule, it's your roost. You try to solve a state's problems, not the Country's or the World's problems. You actually get to set the course and hope to move your state in the right direction. Your obligations and your connections are mostly local and more constant.

Chris, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, now that you have given your wife a child she would boil you for soup if her son were hungry. It's a fierce big love.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | May 11, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I think the move to the senate would be ideal for Madigan. It is a position where you only have to run every 6 years and you have an entire national orginization (DSCC) behind you everytime you run. Also with a fellow Illini in the white house there is the possibility of really having a say in major legislation due to the mutual connections that she would share with Obama. Plus the weather is nicer in DC.

Posted by: AndyR3 | May 11, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

If Madigan does the math, she will see that she can win the Senate seat now and then run for governor any time she wants to afterward. As a bonus, if she does later become governor she might even get to pick her Senate replacement, which means every Democrat in Illinois will be working to stay on her good side while she's in the Senate.

And, having been both a Senator and a Governor, that could position her for a run at President or Vice President at some point in the future.

Minus some scandal that takes her out of all the equations, it coud be a no-lose situation with huge potential.

Posted by: Gallenod | May 11, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you Chris and Happy Mothers day to your wife. Now getting back to what i was saying: Burris is out! Polling conducted 2 weeks ago showed him dreadfully lower than Alexi Giannoulias (getting 2% of vote),and Lisa Madigan. Burris did himself in his lies and minipulating a few good African Americans to support him.

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | May 11, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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