Illinois Gov. William Daley.
Get used to it. Because he wants it. And he's reaching for it.
"I've thought about it before and I don't take it off the table," Daley told me in an interview on WLS-AM 890 on Wednesday as he sat for an hour talking national and local politics. "I think right now, to be very frank with you, the last thing in the world anybody wants to hear about is a race that's two years down the road."
Just a few weeks ago, Daley brushed off questions about a possible run, saying the discussion was silly while President Barack Obama was seeking re-election. But Obama won Tuesday night. And so by Wednesday morning Bill Daley had a different theme:
That he could become governor of a bankrupt state in desperate need of grown-up leadership.
So he's definitely not taking a run for governor off the table. He's putting it right in the middle of the table for all the state — and every politician in the state — to see.
The former U.S. commerce secretary and Obama's former White House chief of staff came into the WLS studios to talk with me and Jake Hartford. We've been filling in as co-hosts during the 9-11 a.m. time slot for a couple of months now. Daley was so relaxed that he even took a few calls from listeners.
Most readers know that I'm not considered to be the warm and fuzzy chronicler of Daley family politics. Bill Daley knows it, as do his brothers, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Cook County Commissioner John Daley and lawyer Mike Daley. Each has been skinned in this column when he deserved it.
Bill Daley isn't impulsive. He clearly wanted to reach people who read this column and listen to the show. He wanted to make news.
And he did.
"I'm not closing the door and, I know that sounds like a politician, but the fact of the matter is that these are tough days and I think there's a lot to be done by the (state) Legislature. I don't think it helps right now for people to be out there saying they're going to run and they have a solution at this point. I think we've got to see what the Legislature does."
And then he methodically discussed how state government, all but bankrupt under a crushing multimillion-dollar debt from unfunded pension liabilities for public workers, could deal with the red ink drowning the state. He said that each side has to give. Republicans have to give on taxes, Democrats on compelling the unions and others to pay more of the freight. Daley said a compromise wouldn't work unless each side took actions that could cost them in the election.
I found these to be serious words offered by a serious man.
"We really have to take a risk on both sides that we may lose an election because of the compromise we come up with," Daley said. "It's truly not a compromise if you can't get to that point where both sides are really nervous about the impact on them. And I'm optimistic. … If it doesn't happen, you have a situation where so much of the budget of Illinois gets eaten up by what's called nondiscretionary pension interest. … It's just a stranglehold on the state and our ability to grow, and what we've got to do is grow this state. We've got a great state, and we've got to get back on top and not on the bottom of the list in most areas."
Daley is not just a politician toying with the idea of running in 2014. He's reaching for it. And he makes a compelling case that he should be seriously considered as a top candidate in a field led by the incompetent incumbent, Gov. Jell-O himself, Pat Quinn. When I asked if he thought Quinn an effective leader, Daley damned him with faint praise.
"I think Pat's an honest, decent guy who's come through over the last 12 years as either the No. 1 or No. 2 highest elected official in the state," Daley said. "I think Pat's determined to get something done, but so far that's been very difficult to get done down in Springfield. But he's got a couple more tries before re-election for him, if he runs again."
If he runs again? Once word of our interview with Daley got around, other reporters chased our story, and reached Quinn at an unrelated event.
"Of course," insisted Gov. Jell-O. "I'm the governor. We don't plan to change the title."
Of course you don't, Gov. Jell-O.
Quinn is considered sincere. But he's too weak to deal with the boss of Illinois, House Speaker Michael Madigan. And Madigan wants his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to be governor. That's why I'm told a deal is being hatched for the lame-duck session in Springfield in January, on making the Madigan/Quinn 67 percent tax increase permanent. The goal is to shore up the state revenue stream now, so it won't compromise Lisa's politics if she mounts a campaign for 2014.
Just when you think politics are over, they start again.
Get ready, guys. Bill Daley's coming.