Having already put the November gubernatorial election in the win column, Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent last weekend in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine in search of a bigger job.
To hear Pritzker deny it and the press dismiss his denials, the Chicago multibillionaire thinks he’d fit in well behind the desk in the Oval Office. And to read media accounts of Pritzker’s speechifying before audiences of partisan Democrats, he killed.
Politico reports that one Democratic Party official in Belknap County, N.H. — overwhelmed by Pritzker’s speech — described him as “perfect.”
“I think he should be our next president,” she said.
Ambitious politicos routinely deny interest in running for president, particularly when there’s a first-term, same-party incumbent already holding the job.
But Pritzker knows as well as anyone that President Joe Biden — struggling under the weight of advancing age and declining poll numbers — is in deep political trouble. Further, he also understands Vice President Kamala Harris hasn’t exactly impressed the public.
So it’s perfectly natural that he — under the guise of campaigning for Democrats in New England states — would decide that a trip to New Hampshire, one of the first primary states, is in order.
Why not? A guy can dream, can’t he?
Besides, it’s not hard to make a great impression in front of partisan crowds.
For starters, Pritzker lambasted Republicans as the enemy of all things decent and former President Donald Trump as the embodiment of evil.
He called Trump “racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic.” What was there for his Democratic audience not to like?
Pritzker also gave an especially laudatory evaluation of his tenure in office. That’s another easy sell because East Coast residents know little to nothing about the dumpster fire that is state government in Illinois.
To hear Pritzker tell it, Illinois had no financial problems before Republican Bruce Rauner was elected in 2016. In fact, Illinois has been in dire financial straits for 20 years.
And to hear Pritzker tell it, he has to do battle regularly with Illinois Republicans to protect “working families.” That’s exactly the kind of noble image that would appeal to New Hampshire Democrats who are unaware that, with the exception of Rauner’s failed four years in office, Democrats have controlled the executive, legislative and judicial branches for the past two decades.
The only role superminority Republicans play in Illinois government is that of punching bag for the governor. But it would have been imprudent for Pritzker to mention that, so he didn’t.
In fact, he gave what was reported to be an energetic and entertaining presentation in which he portrayed himself as an earnest public official who is an “incurable optimist.”
As a “Ukrainian American Jewish Democratic millionaire businessman,” Pritzker said he was “not exactly the archetype that the party was looking for to run for governor,” but instead a regular fella who knows “where I come from.”
But Pritzer was — again — being less than forthright. As a multibillionaire who could fund the Democratic Party with his pocket change, Pritzker was exactly what former party boss Mike Madigan was looking for after Democrats ran against self-funding multimillionaire Republican Rauner.
He’s come through so far, injecting more than $350 million of his personal money into his gubernatorial campaigns and his failed constitutional amendment to enact a progressive income tax.
So Pritzker was puffin’ a little bit as he laid out his background and accomplishments to the Yankees. But in politics, what else is new?
His audience got what it wanted — a rousing, in-your-face attack on the political opposition.
Pritzker got what he wanted — favorable reviews from future primary election voters.
That made it a weekend well spent on the road to the White House.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at email@example.com or 217-393-8251.