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Illinois Republicans See Opportunities To Build Beyond 2012

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Republican Party's Elephant Symbol (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

Republican Party’s Elephant Symbol (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

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Updated 08/27/12 – 3:15 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois has evolved into a “blue state,” but there are still plenty of Republicans – and plenty of opinions on how to rebuild the party.

Those who could be considering a 2014 gubernatorial run say the focus now is to get Mitt Romney elected president.

Certainly, you would expect Romney’s Illinois chairman, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, to say that’s his top political priority now.

“Second to that is electing Republican members on the county boards,” he said. “I think that’s where my party needs to build.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports

In Tampa, Fla., for the Republican National Convention, former Gov. Jim Edgar said, “A lot of you guys told me the big political story is who’s running for governor [in 2014], so … that’ll keep you guys busy for the next few days.”

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports Edgar wasn’t alone. Many of the Illinois delegates gathered in Florida for the GOP convention seemed as focused on the 2014 elections as they were on Mitt Romney, the candidate they came to nominate for president in 2012.

“We’re gonna take the state back, because if we don’t stop [House Speaker Mike] Madigan, we’re never gonna save Illinois,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said.

Brady announced a new campaign called “Fire Madigan” — with buttons, T-shirts and a website, FireMadigan.com.

The 2010 governor’s race featured a Republican primary in which fewer than 200 votes separated the winner, State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), from State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale). Brady then came within 32,000 votes of Gov. Pat Quinn in the general election.

Edgar said, “You come that close, you’d like to get another shot.”

Dillard wasn’t committing to another run for governor, but implied it might not be far away.

“Starting earlier is one of the lessons that I learned from last time,” he said.

Both Dillard and Brady will be deciding whether to run again after the upcoming presidential election.

They differ, though, over whether a crowded primary – such as 2010’s, in which seven men received votes at the end – is a good thing.

“I’m all for inclusion,” said Brady. “Everyone (in 2010) said, well, there was just too many people in it, resources were wasted. That wasn’t the case … the more the merrier, in my opinion.”

“We need a smaller field of candidates,” said Dillard. “Republicans need to use their energies and their financial resources against Democrats in November.”

Another likely front-runner, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, is the Illinois chairman for the Romney campaign. He’s trying not to look past November, but said, “I feel honored that … some may think that I have the ability to do that.

“But the most important thing I have to do right now is to make sure Mitt Romney goes to be the President of the United States, and we elect more county board members in Illinois,” Rutherford said.

State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) is also seen as a possible candidate for governor in 2014. He said the fact that he is running for re-election to a two-year term – meaning if he wins, he’d have to give up the Senate seat to run for governor – will not be a factor in deciding whether to run.

“If there is support for me to run, I would be willing to run regardless of the term. If there isn’t support for me to run, I wouldn’t run, even if I were in the middle of a four-year (term).”

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) said he hasn’t discussed his political plans beyond his current re-election race, but University of Illinois political science professor Kent Redfield said America’s youngest Congressman is acting like someone who wants to return to Illinois to run for governor.

“I think being a member of the legislature – of the U. S. Congress, even – if you’re in the majority in the House, is not a lot of fun, and I think people feel like they can have a bigger impact when they’re governor than being one of 435 Congressmen,” Redfield said.

Asked about the GOP gubernatorial contest, Gov. Pat Quinn said, “We have perpetual campaigns, and I don’t think the people want that. The politicians may want it, but it’s not what everyday voters want. They want results.”

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