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Aaron Schock coy on 2014 Illinois governor run; attacks Quinn, Madigan

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Rep. Aaron Schock talks about his political future in a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with the Chicago Sun-Times.
(Sun-Times photo/Dave McKinney)

TAMPA--U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a rising star in the the House GOP and on the national cable news circuit, attacked Gov. Quinn Tuesday as "incapable of turning the ship around" and expressed no fear in taking on powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Those statements, made during a wide-ranging interview at the Republican National Convention with the Chicago Sun-Times, underscore that the two-term congressman is positioned as a viable candidate for Illinois governor in 2014.

Schock (R-Ill.) stopped short of saying he intends to run, insisting that decision won't come until after the November elections. But, significantly, the Peoria Republican also did not rule out the possibility of running for the state's top political job.

"Are you expecting me to make an announcement here today?" Schock said with a laugh, when asked whether he intends to challenge Quinn in the 2014 election.

"I say this: Anybody who's focused on 2014 right now is doing our party a disservice because we have a lot at stake in the presidential campaign, and we have a handful of congressmen and women whose political backs are on the line in Illinois, and we need to be doing everything we can to help those men and women get across the finish line," Schock said.

The congressman made the media rounds Tuesday as a surrogate for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appearing on Fox News and CNN, who characterized the charismatic Schock as "a secret weapon for Mitt Romney."

The work also serves to up his profile significantly for a potential gubernatorial run, should he decide to do that, and in going after Quinn, Schock certainly was sounding like a candidate.

"He's been in state government for 30 years. He's been at the helm of the state for what will be six-plus years. He's proven incapable of turning the ship around," Schock said of Quinn.

Schock described Quinn as lacking focus.

"I think part of it is I don't think he has the personality that's engaging, that instills confidence," from his party, Schock said. "I think he doesn't have the capacity perhaps to put it all together."

Schock also didn't mince words for Madigan (D-Chicago) and said he isn't intimidated by the House speaker, who has been the GOP's favorite pin cushion leading up to the fall elections with "Fire Madigan" messaging that is getting slapped on coffee mugs, golf polos and dog t-shirts.

"I maybe don't buy into the reality of Mike Madigan," Schock said.

"For anyone to suggest that well, gee, we should play nice, or you shouldn't take him on, or you shouldn't try to beat him because you might have to work with him, that's politics," he said. "To me, if you're serious about changing the direction of the state, if you're serious about wanting to be governor or whatever it is people want to be, if they don't want to take him on, then they're not going to be serious players once they're elected.

"You can't fix the state if you don't deal with pensions, and clearly, Madigan, who's been there for 30 years, has shown no willingness to do that," said Schock, who served two terms in the Illinois House under Madigan's rule.

Schock said he has been approached by business leaders to consider running for governor in 2014, but he said he's delivered a sharp message to them about not spreading fundraising dollars around multiple GOP candidates who will make for a bloody primary battle.

"If you want a strong candidate and you want party unity and you want people to whittle down the candidates before the primary, then you as a businessman must stand up and say you know what, this is insanity, this is who we collectively believe is the strongest candidate, and we're willing to put our money where our mouth is and fund them," he said.

Schock also delivered a subtle jab at some of those who have tested the waters for a 2014 gubernatorial run, saying those with election losses in their background demonstrate "weakness" that can be exploited in a general election.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) lost by 193 votes to state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) in the 2010 GOP primary. Brady went on to lose to Quinn in the fall elections. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, before winning his current office in 2010, lost a bid to unseat Secretary of State Jesse White.

"If you are a candidate who's lost, the natural question is what's different, what's going to change? Clearly, there's a sense of weakness there," Schock said, insisting he isn't meaning to single out any particular candidate with the criticism.

"It doesn't mean you can't win, but I do think it makes your argument in the primary that you're the strongest candidate in the general election a little bit tougher," Schock said.

Schock group photo.jpg
Rep. Aaron Schock, right, takes questions Tuesday about his political future from a panel of reporters and columnists with the Chicago Sun-Times at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
(Photo by Lynn Sweet)

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