Halfway through 2013, things weren't looking good for Gov. Pat Quinn. He was in the thick of legislative battles that seemed unwinnable, the negative headlines were piling up and his political opponents were circling, licking their chops for the 2014 election.
Topics Quinn championed, such as pension reform and same sex marriage, looked to be dead in the water, but before the year was out, both pieces of legislation passed.
But Quinn is reluctant to celebrate too loudly.
"I've been involved in a lot of different campaigns ... I don't want to take anything for granted," Quinn said.
Some observers believe Quinn's late 2013 success was equal parts skill and luck, and it could be continuing. Two of the biggest potential rivals within his own party, Lisa Madigan and Bill Daley, decided not to run for governor next year.
And now with running mate Paul Vallas, who brings substantial savvy and experience, Quinn appears to be on the upswing, or as the Washington Post noted, he's "surviving against the odds."
But major challenges remain. Illinois' unemployment rate is still among the nation's highest at almost 9 percent, and federal jobless benefits have been cut.
"Our economic growth has gone very well over the last year, we want to keep it going in that direction," Quinn said. "Our state economy is the 19th largest in the world, and we are creating jobs. In our state, we've created more jobs than any state in the Midwest but we have a lot more to do."
The state, and its largest city, are still billions of dollars in debt. But Quinn insists a casino would not be Chicago's answer to getting back into the red.
"I think the solution for all of Illinois is to out-innovate, and out-educate and out-build every other state in the union," Quinn said.
Quinn says the "reward for a job well done is another job," meaning he's confident voters will look favorably upon him at the ballot box.