SPRINGFIELD -- Even though there are still months before the 2012 election, several Republicans at a GOP event Thursday were willing to speculate about the party's 2014 opponent to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Both state Sens. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and Matt Murphy of Palatine, speaking at an event before Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair, said their first priority is to win re-election this year and try to help win seats for the GOP in Springfield.
But Dillard said he's talking to people "to assess what 2014 looks like." He came within 193 votes of winning the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.
"It's just not enough to elect any Republican," Dillard said. "You need to elect somebody who can govern when they get there. And I think that's one of my strong suits, having once been (former Gov.) Jim Edgar's chief of staff."
"I think the right template for the election of a Republican governor is a suburbanite with very strong downstate roots," he added.
Dillard attended Western Illinois University and was married in downstate Elkhart, a small town north of Springfield.
Murphy said his eventual decision on a 2014 run wouldn't be affected by the fact he'd only get a two-year term if he wins re-election Nov. 6 -- meaning he'd have to choose between running for governor or for state Senate in 2014.
"If there is support for me to run, I'd be willing to run, regardless of the term," Murphy said. "If there isn't support for me to run, I wouldn't run even if I was in the middle of a four-year (term)."
Either candidate, if he runs, is likely to face potentially strong downstate candidates in a primary, such as U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria, 2010 GOP nominee state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington or Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is a formidable fundraiser.