Could Illinois Elect GOP Governor in 2010?

Ready to start thinking about 2010?  Andy McKenna is. He wants to be governor in a state that just sent a politician to the White House and deposed its governor. He’s in a primary field with six other candidates. And he’s a Republican in Illinois.

McKenna, former GOP chair in Illinois, announced his candidacy for governor last week and simultaneously  released a video called ‘Hair Today,’ which features Blagojevich’s infamous hair atop a variety of Illinois citizens and portrays McKenna as an ‘outsider’ to the Chicago culture of corruption.  The video was done by the same person (Fred Davis) who did the McCain campaign video portraying Obama as the biggest celebrity in the world.

“We knew what was wrong with this primary was no one was creating any excitement,” McKenna told HUMAN EVENTS. “We knew we need to do a couple things: One is to speak to their [people’s] embarrassment and anger about the failed leadership, the corruption — do it in a way that people could smile.  Because we think when they smile, they also realize, “Yeah, we can change this.”

It will be interesting to see whether McKenna’s campaign heralds a more presentation-savvy GOP nationally in 2010 than in years past, or if GOP candidates start borrowing from his communication playbook.  If so, McKenna’s campaign could end up being as important communication-wise as politically.

“It’s going to be the style of this campaign to do new and innovative things,” McKenna said.  “We haven’t used up all our creativity.”

Rep. Aaron Schock, a 28-year old Republican who knows what it takes to win in Illinois, said now is the time for candidates to get the attention of primary voters before the holidays (the primary elections are February 2 of next year).

“The biggest struggle for a Republican candidate for governor right now is name I.D.,” Schock said.

Schock thought the ad was humorous and agreed it was a creative way to tell Illinois’ corruption story.

“What struck me when I saw it was the reality is the corruption goes far deeper than Blagojevich,” he said.  

McKenna said he’s been getting emails, text messages, and phone calls praising the message and presentation.

“I just talked to a friend today who said his college-age kid loved it and that he thought it appealed to a broader set of age groups than often happens with Republican messaging,” McKenna said Thursday. “Our campaign’s about uniting Republicans and also reach[ing] out to independents, and that’s part of what we really liked about this — it’s a really good primary message, but it’s also one that I think transitions very well to the general election.”

And what kind of message would that send to the nation if Illinois actually sat a Republican governor a year from today?

“I think it would be a sign that the Democratic Party in Illinois — which has had a significant influence nationally — has the wrong ideas,” McKenna said. “What’s happening in Washington now started happening in Illinois six years ago and the state is nearly bankrupt.  Our debt burden on the people is greater than that of California, and we can’t balance the budget.”