CHICAGO — — Despite a months-long effort to unseat him by influential members of his own party, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn emerged as Democrats' presumed standard bearer to keep the office next year after former White House chief of staff William Daley abruptly dropped his primary challenge.
Daley, who insists he could have won but didn't have the heart for a prolonged battle to fix the state's monumental problems, got in some parting shots by predicting the incumbent will lose next year to a Republican.
There was no usual call Tuesday for endorsing the likely Democratic nominee or for party unity to retain the governor's office or solve the state's fiscal troubles. Instead he referred back to his previous criticisms of his fellow Chicago Democrat's leadership and how Quinn's best attributes are being a nice guy and loyal White Sox fan.
"It wasn't a great summer he had," Daley said, noting Illinois' worst-in-the-nation state pension crisis and an extravagant renovation at the state Capitol that included nearly $700,000 copper-plated doors.
But longtime political observers say Daley's departure is another sign of the power of incumbency and just how formidable a rival Quinn could be in 2014, even with widespread concerns about his handling of the pension mess and Illinois having the nation's second-highest unemployment.
"Whether people are fond of him or not, he's the governor and he's going to be governor for another year and a half," said two-term former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. "That's a lot of leverage."
Quinn is a former lieutenant governor who ascended to the top job when now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ousted from office. He survived a tough primary in 2010, going on to defeat his Republican rival by a razor-thin margin in the Democrat-dominated state.