Fall from grace
A candidate with a cloud over his head is carrying a piano on his back.
Politics is a rough business, and one need only look at the results of a poll on the Republican race for governor to support that assertion.
Wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner has a substantial lead in a recent We Ask America poll of 1,187 likely Republican voters in the March 18. But that's not the news. Rauner, who's run a solid, well-financed campaign, has a substantial lead over state Sen. Kirl Dillard.
What's striking is that state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, the only candidate in the race who has been elected statewide, finished fourth in the four-way race with just 7.48 percent support.
His problem is obvious — fallout from a lawsuit by a former subordinate in the treasurer's office who alleged personal misconduct by Rutherford including sexual harassment and requiring employees to do political work on the taxpayers' dime.
Rutherford has vehemently denied the allegations, and substantial questions have been raised about the character and motive of Rutherford's accuser.
But those questions relate to the merits of the lawsuit. As a political matter, the controversy surrounding Rutherford is proving to be a death knell for his campaign. Fair or not, the allegations look to be fatal, at least from the political perspective.
There are some signs that Rutherford is acknowledging that political reality — principally reports that he has dropped planned TV advertising. Officially, the Rutherford campaign contends that he's still running hard. Unofficially, his campaign looks dead in the water.
While Rutherford looks to be out of contention, state Sens. Dillard and Bill Brady each contendsg that the race is between one of them (Dillard say it's Dillard, Brady says it's Brady) and Rauner.
But Gregg Durham, who directed the We Ask America polls, said that barring a titanic political event that sinks the Rauner effort, Dillard and Brady are fighting for second place.
Politics is about timing. Four years ago, Brady came within a relative handful of votes of beating Quinn in the gubernatorial race. Four years ago, Dillard came within a handful of votes of beating Brady for the Republican nomination and becoming a strong candidate to take on Quinn in the general election. Four years ago, Rutherford was elected state treasurer and perceived as a top GOP gubernatorial candidate in the 2014 race.
But circumstances change, and the shift in political fortunes can be jarring.