BY ABDON M. PALLASCH
Sun-Times Political Reporter
CHICAGO--The surprisingly early end to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial is "bleeping golden" news to Illinois Democrats -- and even some national Democrats -- who dreaded the prospect of a verdict coming just before Election Day, Nov. 2.
"Democrats should be cheering and partying in the streets about the fact that the trial is over," said Democratic consultant Kitty Kurth. "I know my friends on the Republican side will still have plenty of things they'll be criticizing Democrats about, but this will give them one less piece of ammunition.
"The Republicans will still talk about the trial, but at least it won't be in the newspapers and on the radio and on people's television every night."
The abrupt end of the trial -- closing arguments are set for Monday -- without the defense putting on a case spares some high-profile officials such as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, among others, the spectacle of having to testify.
Without high-profile Democrats such as Emanuel taking the stand, it becomes harder for Republicans to nationalize the trial and try to tarnish Democrats around the country for doing things "The Chicago Way."
"The government said their case was going to be something like four months," Blagojevich said Wednesday. That could have meant Blagojevich on the stand or standing to receive his verdict on Election Eve, making it easier for Republicans to try to paint all Democrats with a corrupt brush for voters.
"I think it has to be pretty disappointing to the Republicans that they couldn't make more hay out of it," said Pete Giangreco, a Democratic consultant working on the campaign of Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias, among others.
Giangreco did political work for Blagojevich, a fact state Republican leaders mentioned in one of their near-daily e-mails to reporters about Illinois Democrats mentioned at the trial.
"I think Republicans thought this would be some game-changing, Earth-shattering event," he said. "But I think it's had no impact on any of the statewide or congressional races. You haven't really seen [GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill] Brady or [GOP Senate Candidate Mark] Kirk make issues of it. Kirk has a hard time doing it because he's the only one who took money from Tony Rezko. I'm a little surprised Brady didn't do more of it."
One advantage for Republicans trying to make campaign fodder of the trial will come if the jury finds Blagojevich guilty. That will enable them to call him the "convicted" former governor. The conviction of Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican George Ryan, helped usher in the current era of Democrats holding every statewide office in Illinois.
"The Brady campaign and others tried desperately to use the Blagojevich trial as a distraction. The early end helps to put an end to that," said Mica Matsoff, a spokeswoman for incumbent Democratic Gov. Quinn. "But even more importantly, the trial shows how important it is that we now have the first honest governor in office in Illinois in a decade."
State Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady admits he'd have liked the trial fresher in voters' minds for Election Day, but he predicts Republican success anyway.
"I think generally, Democrats dodged a bullet," Brady said. "But the focus of the election will be on jobs and the economy, so we switch from a focus on the Blagojevich-Quinn fund-raising apparatus to the Blagojevich-Quinn management of the state."