Some Illinois Democrats might be suffering from Bill Daley Withdrawal Syndrome, but his exit from the race for governor does one thing:
It infuses energy and focus into the Republican gubernatorial primary, with candidates asking GOP voters this question:
Who can defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Patrick Quinn?
"I don't think Quinn is strong," state Rep. Jack Franks, the Marengo Democrat and Quinn critic, told me after Daley withdrew. "But the Republicans? They're going to be slicing each other up. It's the time of the knives for them."
And on Tuesday, Republicans had their knives out, like master butchers on a beef neck, the tip close to the bone.
"Daley's withdrawal is big news," said one candidate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, in a Tuesday interview on my radio program on WLS-AM 890. "I've never underestimated Pat Quinn, and Republicans should just not assume we're going to win the election. You've got to nominate the right person."
But which one is that?
I'm certain to outrage some Republican tribes, but this is how the GOP race looks to me.
On top is multimillionaire businessman Bruce Rauner, who is making the state's pension mess and the public employee unions the focus of his campaign. He's got the cash. He doesn't care if he ruffles Springfield sensibilities, and that's needed to attack the $100 billion pension deficit that's choking the state. And Rauner doesn't need the job.
And Brady lost to Quinn by fewer than 32,000 votes in the last general election. Brady is seeking a rematch with Quinn in 2014.
Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford is also in the mix, and I hope to spend time with him soon. I've already interviewed Rauner at length in this space.
On Tuesday, Dillard and Brady were my radio guests, and they wasted no time going after Rauner, painting the businessman as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's surrogate candidate.
"I've been there, I know how to use the governor's office to lead. I don't want to be king, like Mr. Rauner," Dillard said. "… It's very clear that Mr. Rauner is now, with Bill Daley out, Mayor Emanuel's choice. I think you want someone who is independent from the mayor of Chicago."
With Republican voters finally paying attention, it was a smart time for Dillard to strike, and Rauner makes no secret of the fact that he helped Emanuel in business deals after the Rahmfather left the Clinton administration.
Dillard said he had a decent working relationship with Emanuel, "but I'm not part of his inner circle as is Bruce Rauner. … That is not a healthy governmental relationship for a Republican governor."
Dillard's attack on Rauner was smoothly done. He's been around, and he's adept at the verbal knife work. He learned from the masters, serving as a top aide to former Gov. Jim Thompson before he was Edgar's chief of staff.
Edgar is often cast as a reformer, though it was Edgar who famously wrote a letter seeking mercy in the federal sentencing of his longtime friend, the corrupt Republican combine shadow boss "Big" Bill Cellini.
So there are connections all around.