Several mainstream media accounts suggest that about the only thing Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have in common is they both live in Illinois. Today at the Washington Post's Web site, for example, we learn that "Obama Worked to Distance Self From Blagojevich Early On." The article begins by noting that the Illinois governor, unlike other major state Democratic politicians, wasn't allowed to address this year's national convention. There was at least one good reason for that, although it wasn't covered by today's Washington Post. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times explained it last August:
The Obama campaign on Tuesday afternoon released more speakers for the second night of the Democratic convention in Denver, a batch of Democratic governors. Missing from the list: the first governor to back Obama, his homestate Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich, who threw a heck of a party in Boston in 2004, has had no profile in the Obama campaign because of the scandals surrounding his administration, notably the Tony Rezko probe.
Because of Rezko, I never, ever expected Blagojevich to be tapped to speak.
Moreover, Blagojevich has for some time been quite unpopular. As Rasmussen Reports noted earlier this week after Blagojevich's arrest:
While this news will certainly further tarnish the governor’s reputation, Rasmussen Reports tracking in the state consistently has shown the Democrat to be one of the nation's most unpopular governors, if not the most unpopular.
Given that, it's little wonder Obama didn't want Blagojevich at the convention endorsing his candidacy. Especially since Obama - far from distancing himself early on - played a key role in electing the now disgraced governor.
That year, he gained his first high-level experience in a statewide campaign when he advised the victorious gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, another politician with a funny name and a message of reform. Rahm Emanuel, a congressman from Chicago and a friend of Obama’s, told me that he, Obama, David Wilhelm, who was Blagojevich’s campaign co-chair, and another Blagojevich aide were the top strategists of Blagojevich’s victory. He and Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor,” Emanuel said. “We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.”
In June of 2002, Obama said on a local-access program: " …right now, my main focus is to make sure that we elect Rod Blagojevich as Governor. . ."
The talk of scandals and Federal investigations of Blagojevich didn't diminish Obama's enthusiasm for his re-election in 2006. Chicago ABC 7 reporter Andy Shaw reported on August 16:
"We've got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois and for that reason I am proud to stand behind him," said Senator Barack Obama.
If Obama were trying to keep his distance from Blagojevich, he did it in a most peculiar way. Or, as they admiringly say in Democratic precincts, perhaps he did it "the Chicago way."