CHICAGO - Even though he's a target of Republican attack ads, faces an outspoken though little-known primary challenger and could see a tough road to November, Gov. Pat Quinn's re-election campaign has been barely visible.
For weeks the Chicago Democrat has largely kept out of the public eye as four Republicans square off for the chance to unseat him in the fall. He's not spending or debating. His lieutenant governor running mate didn't move back to Illinois until this month. In the governor's first official public event in more than a week, he appeared with actor Martin Sheen Thursday at a Chicago church to advocate raising the minimum wage.
"People know my record," Quinn said, citing newly signed laws overhauling pensions and legalizing same-sex marriage. "Those are the kind of things that people that want ... That's the best way to go to the electorate."
Experts agree a low-key campaign is probably Quinn's best approach, particularly with an incumbent's advantage allowing him to actually do the job as Republicans fight for it.
Quinn no longer faces a serious nomination threat since former White House chief of staff Bill Daley and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan ultimately decided not to challenge him. Tio Hardiman, the one Democrat still running against him, has little statewide name recognition or money and has been dogged by personal issues.
Still, if Quinn doesn't have a strong showing at the polls it could signify trouble in November.
Things could have been much different.
When Daley and Madigan were angling to mount challenges, voters got a glimpse of what that Quinn campaign would have been. He'd tack digs about Daley wearing expensively tailored suits onto the end of news conferences, while Daley would regularly blast Quinn on Illinois' high unemployment and a lack of leadership.
But these days Quinn refrains from talking about the election much at all. While GOP candidates picked at each other over allegations of corruption and clout, Quinn traveled to California for an environmental task force, spoke in Washington, D.C., about disaster recovery and visited Illinois' tornado-damaged areas.
The Republicans - businessman Bruce Rauner, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady - largely have let him lay low, too. They haven't seized upon Quinn's 2010 anti-violence neighborhood program that state auditors blasted. And when Quinn went to Los Angeles last week for a fundraiser with celebrities, there's was little mention in Illinois.
"The Republicans are beating each other up and that helps him out," said Christopher Mooney, a University of Illinois at Springfield political science professor. "He's saving his money for the fall. He's going to need it."