With President-elect Barack Obama resigning his senate seat this weekend, most of the attention turns to the man who will name his replacement. And it seems fair to say that the Illinois governor is just about the least popular politician in the nation. Democrat Rod Blagojevich’s approval ratings are lower than George Bush’s. And he’s unconventional to say the least.
Blagojevich has been under the federal gun for months—the subject of a wide ranging corruption investigation. Illinois state politics is a mess, and Blagojevich has plenty of enemies within his own party. But despite it all, he says he’s gearing up for reelection in 2010, which is one of the reason’s his decision-making process is so interesting.
In the September issue of Politics magazine I wrote…
“Should Democrat Barack Obama win the presidency, the appointment of his replacement to the U.S. Senate is likely to be a three-ring political circus starring one of the country’s most unpopular governors and showcasing the free-for-all that often defines Chicago politics.”
It’s a pretty good summation of what’s happening right now. In the running is Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Jan Shakowsky, state senate president Emil Jones, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and the state’s head of veteran’s affairs Tammy Duckworth, among others.
Blagojevich is surely under pressure to appoint an African American. Obama is the nation’s only black senator.
Back in September, Chicago-based consultant Don Rose told Politics magazine that appointing Rep. Jackson might be Blagojevich’s only chance for political survival. If he runs for reelection, the governor will undoubtedly face a Democratic primary challenge, but if he solidifies his support among black voters, he could survive.
For his part, Blagojevich says he’s open to suggestions from the man vacating the seat, but according to one Illinois Democrat, the president-elect isn’t that anxious to consult with him. “The governor is one step ahead of a federal indictment,” the Democrat said. “So it seems like anyone that talks with him could be hit with a subpoena the next day.”
Shane D’Aprile is web editor at Politics magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org