CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich kissed his wife, rode in his state SUV to the office and sat down at his desk Thursday in front of a bust of Lincoln and an American flag to portray "a return to normalcy." It was anything but.
The governor showed no signs of buckling to growing demands that he quit or be removed after his arrest Tuesday on corruption charges alleging that he tried to sell President-elect Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero described the governor's mood as "upbeat" and "positive."
While the governor was working — his spokesman would not say on exactly what — Obama said at a news conference just a couple of blocks away that Blagojevich should go.
Obama, speaking directly for the first time on the scandal, said he was "appalled" by the allegations.
"What I'm absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any dealmaking around my Senate seat. That I'm absolutely certain of," he said. "That would be a violation of everything that this campaign has been about. And that's not how we do business."
Blagojevich's approval rating dropped to an all-time low of 8 percent, and friends and foes alike feared if they don't act swiftly to get rid of him, he might commit some kind of political mischief. A poll taken since Blagojevich's arrest shows 73 percent of those surveyed support impeachment, and 70 percent think he should resign.
"The governor is in office, and he needs to be removed from office," Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. "It is an urgent matter. Illinois is in crisis."
Blagojevich's next move was the subject of great speculation in Illinois and around the country. Some observers wondered whether he might be seeking a deal with prosecutors to use the governor's office as a bargaining chip, possibly agreeing to step down in exchange for leniency.
But there was also worry that the governor might still pick a senator or even appoint himself to the job.
His refusal to step down has struck some as odd given the fact that wiretaps portrayed him as bored with his job, saying he was "struggling financially" and did "not want to be governor for the next two years."
But staying in office provides a financial benefit amid the turmoil: He continues to draw a $177,000-a-year salary.
The decision to impeach Blagojevich rests with House Speaker Michael Madigan, who, according to several House Democrats, faces a strong desire among his members for quick action on impeachment. They said voters are demanding it.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the daughter of the House speaker, threatened again Thursday to file a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to have Blagojevich declared unfit to hold office if he doesn't resign soon or get impeached.
"Obviously right now, in the best of all possible worlds, the governor would do what's right for the people of the state of Illinois. He would resign," said Madigan.
Legislative leaders planned a special session Monday to strip Blagojevich of his power to pick a new U.S. senator, putting the decision in the hands of Illinois voters instead.