Barack Obama had an approval rating of 73.2 percent while Dick Durbin rated 62.2 percent in Chicago-based Glengariff Group's poll, conducted May 15-18. This political column also contains items about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's daily flights between Springfield and Chicago and other items related to state and Springfield-area politics.


Bernard Schoenburg Column


Obama pulling 'rock-star numbers' in poll; Blagojevich not

The two nationally prominent Democrats who hold U.S. Senate seats from Illinois are both doing quite well, thank you, in statewide job-approval numbers, based on a recent poll.

The poll of 600 people taken May 15-18 by Chicago-based Glengariff Group found U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s job- approval rating at 73.2 percent while U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin enjoyed a 62.2 overall job approval.

The same poll found Gov. Rod Blagojevich with 50.6 percent approval while more than a quarter of those sampled strongly disapproved of his job performance.

Richard Czuba, who runs the firm, reiterated the take many have had of the way presidential candidate Obama is relating to the public these days.

“In political parlance, those are rock-star numbers,” said Czuba, whose firm does most of its work for businesses but does some general-interest polls to make his company better known. He said the poll was not commissioned by anyone.

“We generally don't take political clients,” he said, though he has worked some in that field, saying he was “on the Republican side” in Michigan.

Czuba characterized Durbin, the assistant majority leader of the Senate, as being in "pretty solid shape" as he heads into a 2008 re-election campaign. And he said Blagojevich hasn't gotten the usual "honeymoon period" after a re-election, continuing to be what Czuba calls the "great divider" because of the sharply split opinions about him.

Among Durbin, of Springfield, and Obama and Blagojevich, both of Chicago, Czuba said, Blagojevich is "the least popular Democrat by far in the state right now."

The poll also posed a hypothetical U.S. Senate race between Durbin and former Gov. JIM EDGAR, yielding a Durbin advantage of 53-32 percent. Edgar is not expected to run for that or any other office.

The statewide results of the poll have a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Among some poll details:


Obama gets 50.3 percent who "strongly approve" of his job performance, 22.7 percent “somewhat approve,” 9 percent “somewhat disapprove,” 7.7 percent “strongly disapprove” and 10.3 percent offered no opinion. Obama gets approving marks from 87 percent of Democrats, 54.8 percent of Republicans and 69.4 percent of independents.

Durbin gets strong approval from 32 percent, somewhat approval by 30.2 percent, 10.7 percent “somewhat disapprove,” 11.8 percent "strongly disapprove" and 15.5 percent with no opinion.

Statewide, there was 22.8 percent strong approval for Blagojevich, 27.8 percent “somewhat approve,” 14.8 percent “somewhat disapprove” and 27.3 percent “strongly disapprove,” with 7.3 percent offering no opinion.
The poll divides the state into six regions, with Springfield in the central. In that region, Obama has 70.6 percent approval; Durbin, 69.5; and Blagojevich, 35.3. In Chicago, combined approval is 74.8 percent for Blagojevich, 83.4 for Obama and 64.7 for Durbin.

No overnight for governor

The fact that Gov. Blagojevich's staff has taken to going public with complaints that the General Assembly isn't working hard enough has been one of those “the sky is green” moments from his camp - given that the governor so rarely is in Springfield when the General Assembly is working.

Well, he may plan to be in the capital city each day the legislature works overtime, but that doesn't mean he's getting out of touch with his home in Chicago.

His top spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, told reporters after a meeting between the governor and legislative leaders Tuesday that lawmakers should expand their schedules.

"Everyone in America works five days a week and is expected to put in full-time work in order to complete their jobs," she said.

Turns out, spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch confirmed, the governor went home to Chicago after Tuesday's meeting and returned Wednesday.

As you might recall, each such gubernatorial round-trip is actually four flights. The plane must fly to Chicago to pick him up and fly back. And after his return flight home, the plane flies back to Springfield, where it has hangar space.

Petrilli picks up clerk work

George Petrilli, who gave up a state job to run for Springfield Ward 8 alderman this spring, is working part time for GOP Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello.

Aiello said he generally gets some extra help with field work during a quadrennial reassessment of property in Capital Township, and he called Petrilli to ask if he would be interested in helping.

The job includes updating photographs of properties and taking measurements. The job can have odd hours because appointments sometimes have to be made to get inside a home. Petrilli is working 15 to 20 hours per week, Aiello said. He's being paid $1,250 per month, with a maximum total of $7,500.

Aiello said he saw Petrilli several times during the campaign and often spoke with him.

"It just seemed like a good fit for a guy that's willing to work that hard to be an alderman," Aiello said.

Petrilli lost to Ald. Kris Theilen. The race was very close, and the seat was considered wide open with the retirement of longtime Ald. Irv Smith.

Theilen is a Republican precinct committeeman while Petrilli got some Democratic backing stressing the nonpartisan nature of the aldermanic job. He never seemed to realize that his one-time shooting of video of GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka at a public event was a political act. He said he was just helping a roommate who worked for the Blagojevich campaign.

Dems button up for Tucker

Democratic members of the Senate and staffers on that side of the aisle spent last Thursday wearing political-style buttons with a flag motif and the name "Tucker" as a way to honor the staff's policy director on his last day in that job.

Lawren Tucker of Petersburg will start June 18 as chief deputy director of the state library, replacing Mike Ragen, who retired.

Tucker, said Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate Democrats, is a collector of antique campaign buttons, which are "always part of his apparel," so the special buttons made to mark the day seemed appropriate.

A Taylorville native, Tucker was editor of a newspaper in Albion before joining the Senate staff as an intern in 1984. Just past midnight last Thursday, Senate President Emil Jones Jr. called for a "tremendous round of applause" in the Senate for Tucker - for both the retirement and to mark his 52nd birthday that began with the new day and the beginning of session overtime.

Tucker has been making $96,408 annually in the Senate. The library job will pay $87,000, secretary of state spokesman Dave Druker said.

Ragen, 55, had about 32 years with the state, including working on House Speaker Bill Redmond’s staff; and working 22 years in the Senate for presidents Tom Hynes, Phil Rock and Jones. He joined the state library when Jesse White became secretary of state.

Two to get Simon awards

At its annual Paul Simon community service banquet Friday in Springfield, the Illinois Coalition for Community Services is presenting its legislative award to state Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, and its community service award to the keynote speaker at the event, Ed Smith of Olive Branch, Midwest regional manager of the Laborers International Union.

The organization said Sullivan has been a champion of helping communities help themselves while coalition executive director Joe Dunn said Smith mixes his labor union duties with being a "real mover and shaker in southern Illinois" for community causes.

Thirteen grass-roots groups also are being recognized at the dinner, including Project Return, a church-run program that helps women who have been incarcerated re-enter the community.

Tickets to the 6 p.m. event at the Northfield Center are $40, and advance notice at (800) 728-1523 is requested.

AFL-CIO names officers

Taylorville native Tim Drea, a one-time coal miner who went on to work on the Senate Democratic staff and spent a decade with Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, was named secretary-treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Drea was elected by the group's executive board to fill out the term of Michael Carrigan of Decatur, who moved up to president with the retirement of Margaret Blackshere.

Both Carrigan and Drea are expected to be up for election to full terms in their new jobs in the fall of 2008.

Drea most recently served as legislative and political director for the 36,000-member local in Chicago.


Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.