WASHINGTON — Gov. Pat Quinn hired the man who managed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s come-from-behind, populist everyday people campaign to be the chief strategist of his re-election bid. Quinn told me he views his 2014 run as a “battle for the soul of Illinois.”
Over coffee, Quinn and I discussed his campaign on Friday afternoon. Ever frugal, Quinn delayed staffing up — doing so only in recent weeks since the November campaign roars to life the instant the March 18 Illinois primary determines his Republican rival.
Quinn is in the capital through Monday for the National Governors Association winter meeting, events with the Democratic governors political operation and profile-raising bookings on several national political TV shows, which could be helpful for fundraising. We talked just after he attended a White House meeting with 13 other Democratic governors, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
De Blasio and Quinn are slices off the same populist loaf of bread.
Quinn, who buys his suits at Men’s Wearhouse on State Street, told me his campaign will be steered by Bill Hyers, who won rave reviews for taking de Blasio’s longshot bid to victory in a big-city contest with intense media scrutiny — a nice practice run for Illinois.
Hyers “brings a good sense of modern campaigns,” Quinn told me. “We are going to be very aggressive with social media, and we’ll have a very strong regular media campaign and it fits in with our grass-roots efforts.”
A November Washington Post profile on Hyers called him a “blazing-hot commodity,” a man who “is a citizen of the campaign office in the fill-in-the-blank state capital or big city that he moves to every year or so.”
Hyers, Quinn’s team says, has Illinois roots: born in Kewanee, graduating from high school in Harrisburg and attending grad school at Illinois State University.
Last Wednesday, Biden was in Granite City, Ill., to tout the administration’s infrastructure achievements, and Quinn talked to him about his campaign. “And he said I’ll come once, twice, three times, whatever you need,” Quinn told me.
There have been several national stories about some Democrats who want to distance themselves from Obama as they run this year. If they don’t want the president to stump for them, Quinn said, “We’ll be happy to take that time.”
Quinn reveals that his running mate, Paul Vallas, is now back from Connecticut, living in Palos Heights full time and is being deployed this weekend — while he is in D.C. — at events with Democratic organizations in Kane and DuPage counties and to mark the Lunar New Year.
Houston labor trip
Quinn needs the backing of big labor, especially for campaign cash. On Monday he was in Houston for the annual winter meeting of the AFL-CIO to work the union leaders. Though he has repair work to do with public-sector unions, Quinn quoted Biden when it comes to energizing labor: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.”
Quinn is again using the Mellman Group as his pollsters. In a poll taken Jan. 22-26, according to a summary shared with me, Quinn led GOP front-runner Bruce Rauner 42 percent to 35 percent, with 22 percent undecided. Quinn had a lock on Chicago at 70 percent, was ahead in the Cook County suburbs, 45 percent to 34 percent, with the battleground the collar counties, where Rauner has 40 percent to Quinn’s 43.
Quinn’s finance director, Liz Houlihan, sent the polling memo to Quinn’s top donors earlier this week.
Joe Slade White and Ben Nuckels are again making Quinn’s spots. Four years ago, they made ads savaging then-GOP nominee Bill Brady for being so wealthy that he was out of touch with average Illinoisans. I can only imagine what they will do if superrich Rauner wins the GOP nomination. Man of the .1 percent?