08/29/2012 02:06 pm ET

Republican Illinois Governor Race Heats Up At RNC: Rutherford, Schock Perceived As Contenders

With some of Illinois' top Republican politicians gathered in Tampa for the GOP convention, the topic of Illinois' governorship was bound to come up.

While the focus of the convention is ostensibly on Mitt Romney's presidential bid, Illinois delegates are reportedly sharing their attention with local political battlegrounds.

“We’re gonna take the state back,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said at the convention, according to CBS Chicago. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Romney's Illinois chairman, said that the presidential election is his primary concern, and “[s]econd to that is electing Republican members on the county boards."

Rising star U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) has already fielded questions about a possible 2014 bid at the convention, and slammed current Gov. Pat Quinn as "incapable of turning the ship around" in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday. The Peoria Republican played up the importance of focusing on the election at hand, but hinted that a gubernatorial bid could be on the horizon, an idea that has been hinted at before.

Rutherford himself is a leading contender. According to Capitol Fax, We Ask America polled 1,245 likely Republican voters and found he trails only State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington as the most likely pick for the 2014 ticket, though Brady leads with 24 percent to Rutherford's 10 percent.

More tellingly, a Daily Herald poll of 51 GOP delegates returned 73 percent in favor of seeing Rutherford on the ticket, but Brady wasn't included among their poll's list of options.

In both surveys, State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and Schock were also close contenders, but with more than 36 percent of likely voters undecided, there's still a long way to go for the GOP to pack a powerful punch against incumbent Quinn.

State Republicans were reportedly concerned about Sen. Mark Kirk's absence from the GOP convention due to his stroke recovery, afraid he would fall from the spotlight at a time when he could transition into a party leadership role in Illinois. Brady and other top Republicans emphasized his involvement in the event and his continued participation in state politics.

And the Illinois GOP hasn't set their sights only on the governor's seat. As the convention kicked off Monday, state GOP leaders unveiled a CafePress web store offering up bumper stickers, buttons, yard signs and more emblazoned with the slogan "Save Illinois. Fire Madigan."