1. One thing I think we can say with certainty: the state's two most popular politicians are Jesse White and Lisa Madigan. As Steve Rhodes put it: "Lisa Madigan has been a success based on one simple quality: competence. It's amazing that's all it takes in Illinois!"
2. I suspect the state would be a lot happier if we could trade Kirk Dillard (who would have won) for Pat Quinn, and David Hoffman (who would have won) for Mark Kirk. We can do that, right? Maybe the Dems could offer to kick in a House member to be named later. I get why Brady won the primary—more ideologically stringent candidates are more likely to win if you decide based on the whims of the most active party members. And I suspect that an even slightly less conservative candidate might have made up the minuscule lead that Quinn currently holds. "Who could have predicted that being against access to birth control would hurt a candidate with women?" Not primary voters!
I still have no idea why Giannoulias won [the primary, sorry]. Not talking to the press or the public helped, I guess.
So don't discount, when looking at the results, that a major factor was just playing the bad hand we dealt ourselves after the primaries. Which isn't to say there wasn't a wave—Brady and Kirk substantially outperformed Topinka's 2006 results (the best comparison in recent statewide elections, I think) in every Republican stronghold I looked at, even the small ones. And they flipped Lake and Will Counties, among some smaller ones, which were arguably the biggest factors.