On rare occasions somebody will ask me if I've ever given any thought to moving up to the "bigtime" political scene in Washington, DC.
I have a standard reply.
Here are my top ten reasons...
10) Partisanship can be intense in Illinois, but rarely will you see political followers swoon over gigantic flip-flops from their party leaders here like they have nationally with Barack Obama and John McCain.
Obama says change comes to Washington, not from Washington, but picks a running mate who has been in the US Senate since Richard Nixon was president, and the Democrats cheer wildly. McCain spends months ridiculing Obama's lack of experience on the national stage, then chooses a veep who was chairing the Wasilla, Alaska PTA six years ago, and the Republicans go gaga. What a pathetic scene.
9) Our last two governors have been even more unpopular than our current president, but at least they haven't started any wars. At least, not yet. Perhaps I shouldn't be giving Rod Blagojevich any ideas. I shudder to think what might happen to Indiana or Wisconsin.
8) Arrogance abounds in Illinois politics. But everybody in DC from the president all the way down to the janitors on K Street believe they reside at the center of the universe. It's a terminal illness, and nobody out there is immune. Barack Obama was immediately dismissed by the Beltway crowd because nobody knew who he was. Oops. The same goes for Gov. Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to some of the harshest press coverage anyone has seen in years. If you don't regularly attend cocktail parties with the DC elite, you are nobody and therefore are not to be respected.
Unlike Washington, DC, we give people a chance here in Illinois. Rod Blagojevich, an unknown, backbench Congressman vaulted to our state's highest office without anyone really claiming that he didn't have the "right" sort of experience.
OK, maybe we made a mistake with that one.
7) A national columnist referred to Bill Clinton as the "first black president," and was taken seriously. Rod Blagojevich called himself Illinois' first black governor, and was widely ridiculed. We just have more perspective on things.
6) US House: 435 members. US Senate: 100 members. Illinois House and Senate: Only one member who matters in each, the House Speaker and the Senate President. As a reporter, the Statehouse is just much easier to cover than the US Capitol.
5) For security reasons, the American president is practically condemned to living most of his term in the White House. Our governor can live wherever he wants, which, come to think of it, is mostly in a bunker far away from reporters who want to ask him about his various scandals. So, maybe that's not a great big difference.
4) Illinoisans are far superior to those DC folks because we long ago figured out Barack Obama's eery supernatural powers.
Obama managed to kick an incumbent off the ballot the first time he ran for state Senate, which is about as rare in Chicago as a pro-gun politician. Then, billionaire Blair Hull self-destructed in the 2004 Democratic US Senate primary after allegations surfaced of spousal abuse. Then, Obama's Republican US Senate opponent Jack Ryan was forced off the ticket after a sex scandal involving the candidate and his own wife. Then, the state Republicans convinced Maryland resident Alan Keyes to run against Obama, only to discover soon afterwards that Keyes' daughter was an Anarchist lesbian. Hull, Ryan and Keyes can now barely show their faces in Illinois.
I'm not sure I'd want to be John McCain or Sarah Palin.
3) Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is a 74 year old man who can do a standing backflip. No kidding. Eat your heart out, Condoleeza Rice!
2) Unlike Vice President Dick Cheney, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn has never shot anyone in the face.
And the Number One reason I prefer covering Illinois to Washington, DC: I couldn't bear to leave my readers at the [insert your newspaper name here]!!!
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.