SPRINGFIELD – Political days during the Illinois State Fair have a similar sound, regardless of party.
There's a lot of, “We've got a great ticket, and the other party is bad for the state, and let's get out the vote and win in November.” You know, the usual rah-rah stuff to get the party faithful excited.
In the past few years, though, Republicans often sounded as if they were just going through the motions. This year, not the case.
You could sense that just from the crowd gathered for the rally at the fairgrounds Thursday afternoon. It may have been the biggest turnout for one of these Republican Day events in years. One reporter said it reminded him of the crowds that turned out during the days of Republican governors and GOP control of at least one legislative chamber.
The reason appears to be the presence on the Republican ticket of governor candidate Bruce Rauner. His own deep pockets and those of many of his campaign contributors mean the Republicans will have the financial resources to run credible campaigns. Rauner last week said he intends to help all Republican candidates.
“I'm going to campaign up and down the ticket for every officeholder,” Rauner told a Republican gathering. “I'm going to fundraise for every candidate. I'm going to fundraise for the party.”
Republicans could pick up a couple of seats in the House or Senate, but no one on the outside thinks they'll win enough to take control of either chamber. Likewise, you'd be hard-pressed to find bettors willing to wager that the Republicans will defeat either Secretary of State Jesse White or Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
But ousting Gov. Pat Quinn, who faces dwindling approval ratings and is saddled with trying to fix the state's seemingly intractable financial problems, is doable.
And for the first time in years, the Republicans actually do seem energized going into a fall campaign.
The issue is character(s)
Ah, the things you can learn in this business.
Until last week, we didn't know, or particularly care, that the top-hatted, mustachioed guy depicted in the Monopoly game has a name. It is Rich Uncle Pennybags.
Why is that important? It's not, except it is now the latest costumed mascot to enter the race for governor.
The Democrats unveiled a mascot last week that looks a lot like Pennybags, only they call theirs Baron von Moneybags to mock Rauner's own statement that he is part of the 0.01 percent when it comes to wealth.
This now evens out the mascot arms race in the gubernatorial campaign at two apiece. Moneybags and a chicken for the Democrats, Quinnocchio and a guy in a Blagojevich mask for the Republicans.
Like we said before, this will be a banner year for the costume-rental industry.
“I can't do that. The Girl Scouts were unhappy with the way I sewed on buttons and stuff.”
– Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka when asked about her opponent, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, wearing a homemade dress to the fair last week.
Thou shalt work 40 hours
The latest biblical reference from Quinn came during Governor's Day activities:
“There's a principle as old as the Bible,” he said. “It says if you work hard, if you're working 40 hours a week, if you are doing the hardest job possible, you shouldn't have to live in poverty.”
Got to remember to research that and find out whether the Old Testament or the New Testament addresses the 40-hour work week.
Time to resurface
An unsolicited observation for state fair officials about the public parking area inside the Grandstand racetrack: Based on the jostling involved, it's getting harder and harder to tell when you're driving on the grass infield and when you're on what once was an asphalt road running through the middle. It might be time to resurface.