When you mix royal Illinois political houses, ambition, jealousy and power, what do you get?
A whiff of blood in the air over Madiganistan.
Madiganistan, the state known to outsiders as Illinois, is ruled by the ruthless and all-powerful imp, House Speaker Michael Madigan, boss of the Illinois Democratic Party.
And it could just be that the landscape is changing, ever so slightly, as William Daley, former White House chief of staff and U.S. commerce secretary, turns up the volume on apossible run for governor.
"After what happened in Springfield last week, I am considering it even more strongly than before," Daley told me over the phone on Tuesday. "The inaction down there, the chaos, they're thinking politics, but they're not thinking about the state or the taxpayers."
Daley hasn't been jabbing at Madigan as much as he's been jabbing at Gov. Pat Quinn, but Daley's commentary about the ineffective legislative leadership is also clear. Madigan failed to address the unavoidable carbuncle on the state's finances:
An estimated $100 billion liability in the public pension funds.
The official explanation was that Madigan and his apprentice, state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Jimmy DeLeo, couldn't work out a pension deal.
But if Madigan wanted a pension deal worked out, it would have been worked out. Why? Boss Madigan controls the legislature, the state Supreme Court and more. He draws the state's political maps.
He is like Oz with real power. All tremble at his approach. Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The common wisdom had it that Boss Madigan would install his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, as governor. Princess Lisa has been raising money, and political grovelers have been squabbling with each other over who will kiss the hem of her gown.
Meanwhile, Madigan and Cullerton have tried their best to hamstring the governor. They've been relentless, weakening the governor for Lisa the way hyenas hamstring a beast so their pups can experience the thrill of that final bite.
But if common wisdom were absolute, then Daley wouldn't be wasting his time talking about a campaign. And he's talking.
Daley floated his gubernatorial campaign months ago in this column, and later sat for an interview on my daily talk radio show on WLS-AM. The idea that a Daley would sit with me for an hour in a small, windowless room without a weapon seemed inconceivable once.
His ambition waned a bit, at least publicly, but in the last few days, it's become ravenous again. He's not only talking to me, he talked extensively this week with the Tribune's Springfield correspondent, Ray Long, who got this tremendous quote from Daley:
"Squeezy the Python was there, and he couldn't squeeze anybody," Daley said, referencing the cartoon character created by Quinn's brain trust to illustrate how pension costs squeeze money from state programs. "The governor couldn't squeeze anybody. ... Is that how things are going to work? We're looking at another five years of this? I don't think so."
For all my criticism of the Daleys, Bill is accomplished, experienced and ready to become governor. Sources say Daley is meeting with bankers, power brokers, fundraisers, figuring that he'll need $6 million to $10 million to challenge the governor. He is expected to decide sometime next week.
The governor on Tuesday wasn't amused by Daley's comments.
"There's always going to be huffing and puffing on the sidelines by people who may want to be candidates for some office, including this one," Quinn said. "I'm in the arena. I'm working hard every day. I think people know from my lifetime that I work hard on important and hard issues and I don't give up until I'm done."
Daley wouldn't be interested in a three-way race with Quinn and Madigan. But a one-on-one against Quinn might give an opening. And Quinn, for all the wounds he's taken, may still be formidable.