Up north, politics has turned into a blood sport.
It's getting down to nut-cutting time in Wisconsin, where on June 5 voters will settle, one way or the other, a civil war of sorts.
That's the day for the scheduled recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, the arch-enemy of the state public employee unions that organized the recall and are spending multiple millions of dollars to throw their nemesis out of office.
Walker, a Republican, is facing Milwaukee's Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett, the same candidate he defeated in 2010, and the race has been, to say the least, spirited. To say the most, it's been one of the ugliest adventures in partisan politics in years, and that's why so many people outside Wisconsin are following the campaign with great interest.
Walker is facing a re-election campaign under the state's unusual recall provisions because shortly after winning the governor's office he persuaded the Republican legislature to pass changes in the state's collective bargaining law that diminished the power, pay and perks of public employee unions.
Walker attributed his decision to the need to provide more flexibility for state and local governmental entities to address their budget woes, and his proposals largely have succeeded in doing what he hoped they would do.
But the unions declared war, first organizing a failed recall effort against six Republican members of the state Senate.
Now as they target Walker for defeat, the unions are sending a dual message to politicians across the country. 'Don't mess with us or we'll end your career' is one. The other is that 'even if we don't beat you, we'll put you through the meat grinder.'
But an unusual thing has happened in this contest. Even though the unions put the recall vote on the ballot, voters apparently have little interest in the union's grievances against Walker. A Marquette University poll showed that only 12 percent of self-identified Democratic voters identified restoring collective bargaining rights to the public employee unions as their No. 1 interest. The issue most important to them is creating new jobs.
So Mayor Barrett isn't running against Walker on the union issue, he's running on the jobs issue. Indeed, it would have been a surprise if Barrett emphasized the union issue because, as mayor, he's used the new flexibility available to him under Walker's reform to address his city's financial problems.
But what Barrett is saying about Walker doesn't lessen in any way the unions' desire for political payback, and it's still an open issue whether Walker will survive.
Polls indicate Walker is ahead. But that could easily change, and the race could turn on which side gets its supporters to the polls.
Unlike Illinois, Wisconsin has long enjoyed a reputation as a generally corruption-free state. Like Illinois, however, its politics can be rough and tumble, and it will never get any rougher than it is right now.