Just a week ago, Bill Brady looked like a sure thing.
Fivethirtyeight.com, The New York Times’ electoral forecasting service (run by local boy done good, Nate Silver), gave him a 91 percent chance to become the next governor of Illinois, based on polls showing him with a double-digit lead over Gov. Pat Quinn.
Now, Suffolk University is out with a poll showing Brady trailing Quinn, 43 percent to 37 percent. It’s no outrider: last week, three other surveys showed the governor’s race nearly tied.
What has Brady done wrong? Nothing. He's still the same small-town conservative who won the Republican primary. And he’s exactly where you’d expect a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay anti-union, Tea Party candidate to be in the blue state of Illinois.
Brady was never leading because voters liked his message. He was leading because he wasn’t Quinn, the governor who brought Illinois a $13 billion budget deficit. Quinn has been such a flaky governor that his only path to victory is to expose Brady as a coldhearted millionaire who wants to lower the minimum wage and fire schoolteachers. It seems to be working, says David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston’s Suffolk University:
Pat Quinn’s TV ads have put Bill Brady under a microscope and are shifting voters’ focus away from Quinn’s slow progress in dealing with the mess he inherited from Governor Rod Blagojevich. Quinn’s efforts to focus voters on Brady’s negatives are designed to make Quinn look better in comparison, while solidifying his base of support.
As a commenter on the conservative blog Illinois Review put it:
I think that Brady’s comments about lowering the minimum wage are going to haunt him this election. It allows the Dems to unfairly paint him as the kind of guy who wants to make life even harder for those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
It may be unfair, but Brady has refused to moderate his views to match the state he hopes to govern. He was the only statewide Republican candidate to appear at last month’s Right Nation 2010 event, where he made disparaging remarks about Chicago. Illinois doesn’t want four more years of Quinn’s bumbling, but it doesn’t want four years of Tea Party leadership, either. In four weeks, we’ll find out which it wants less.