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Miller: Poll shows concern for potential Madigan conflict of interest

I think a lot of people believed that if Bill Daley ran for governor, his campaign would be as bland and vanilla as his public persona has been over the decades.

Instead, he’s turned into the most fiery candidate in the race so far. Daley is even “out-angering” wealthy Republican financier Bruce Rauner, who has tried to position himself as the “We’re-not-gonna-take-it-anymore!” choice for 2014.

He’s attacked Gov. Pat Quinn’s pathetic leadership, slammed the General Assembly for its ridiculous inaction, and has made it clear that he’s not afraid to go on the attack against the Madigan family by releasing unflattering poll results last week that showed that the House Speaker could harm his daughter’s potential gubernatorial bid.

Daley has been selectively releasing responses to a poll taken in April for his campaign – back when few thought he would actually run. All of the responses released so far have dealt with Attorney General Lisa Madigan and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan. None of the numbers released so far have showed any actual Daley strength.

For instance, Attorney General Madigan has a 54 percent favorable rating, according to a poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research for Daley’s campaign, and she leads Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford, 50-34, in an initial head-to-head matchup.

But after voters hear a statement about possible “major conflicts of interest” if both Madigans are at the top of two branches of government, that support falls and she moves into a 41-41 tie with Rutherford. Fifty-three percent said it’s a “serious concern” that a Governor Madigan and a Speaker Madigan “will put too much power in one family’s hands and break the system of checks and balances that is supposed to keep power in government separated.” An additional 17 percent said it’s “somewhat of a concern,” putting the total number at 70 percent.

According to the poll, 23 percent said they “like Lisa,” but would have a “hard time” voting for her if her father continues as House speaker. An additional 26 percent said they wouldn’t vote for her regardless. That means a total of 49 percent are in the reticent/refusal category.

The day after releasing those numbers, Daley’s campaign leaked yet another result that won’t go over well with the Madigan clan.

“If Lisa Madigan ran for governor,” respondents were asked, “do you think her father, Mike Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, should: Retire and not run for re-election as speaker; run for re-election as speaker but commit to resign from office and retire if Lisa Madigan is elected governor; continue to serve as speaker even if Lisa Madigan is elected governor?”

According to the campaign, the poll found that 42 percent of likely general election voters said Speaker Madigan should retire if Lisa runs for governor. An additional 22 percent said he should commit to resign if Lisa is elected. Only a quarter, 25 percent, said he ought to continue to serve as speaker even if Lisa is elected governor. Twelve percent were undecided or refused to respond.

These poll numbers aren’t designed to run Attorney General Madigan out of the race. She undoubtedly has her own polling data and has done some focus groups. She’s fully aware that she’ll be subjected to endless misogynistic “daddy” attacks, and that every deal her father has ever cut will be run through the filter of her candidacy.

Instead, the idea here is to frame the debate before the debate even begins. So far, there has been no real response from Team Lisa. The speaker’s people bristle at every mention of a “conflict of interest” regarding her potential governorship, and their constant refrain is to challenge reporters to define the term. The reporters don’t seem to feel the need to do that because voters appear to already pretty much get it in their guts. This is an easy story to write and an easy story to understand, so the stories will continue unless she comes up with an effective response.

So far, the overriding media theme is that she’ll either be completely controlled by her father or that the two of them will collude to rule the state unchecked. That’s a tough mindset to break, as the polling clearly shows.

• Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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