* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…
It’s no secret that Republican primary voters in Illinois have been almost rigidly hierarchical when it comes to choosing gubernatorial candidates. They pretty much always choose the candidate who can best demonstrate that it’s his or her “turn.”
In 1990, after eight years as secretary of state, Jim Edgar was the clear choice. Indeed, he barely had opposition. The same went for two-term Secretary of State George Ryan eight years later. In 2002, it was clearly Attorney General Jim Ryan’s turn and he bested two other high-profile candidates in the primary. In 2006, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka beat three lesser-known opponents to win her primary race, although it wasn’t as easy.
Things weren’t as clear in 2010. Wealthy Republican contributor and former state party chairman Andy McKenna spent a fortune early on and led in most polling until near the end, when primary voters began to sour on him. They quickly turned to Sen. Kirk Dillard, a former Jim Edgar chief of staff, but then almost as quickly turned against him when McKenna unleashed ads blasting Dillard for appearing in a TV ad for Barack Obama. Sen. Bill Brady, a strong conservative who ran an underfunded but somewhat credible campaign four years earlier, ended up beating Dillard by less than 200 votes.
And that brings us to 2014, where three of the four candidates are relying mainly on the “my turn” logic to prevail. Sen. Brady’s main pitch to voters, other than his recycled 2010 rhetoric, is that he learned valuable lessons in his 2010 loss to Pat Quinn and is now the most viable choice. Sen. Dillard’s pitch is that he was a proven manager under Jim Edgar and would’ve won in 2010 had he not lost to Brady in the primary and so he’s the best choice. Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s almost singular raisson d’être is that he is the only candidate in the race who has ever won statewide.
McKenna was the second rich guy in a row to attempt to break the “my turn” cycle. Wealthy GOP contributor Ron Gidwitz ran four years earlier and lost badly. You can draw a direct line from Gidwitz to self described “outsider” Bruce Rauner, who is running a well thought-out, well-funded and highly sophisticated primary race in an attempt to reset the “my turn” system, which essentially flowed from the mighty statewide organization built by political newcomer Gov. Jim Thompson, who is now backing Dillard.
If the primary was left to its own devices, Rauner might very well walk away with this thing. None of the other candidates have any real money and none are making much of a persuasive case for their respective campaigns.
But organized labor is moving ever closer to jumping into this primary battle, sources say. The idea, as I’ve told you before, is to spend a relative few million bucks attacking Rauner in the primary rather than being forced to spend tens of millions to fend him off in the fall. His close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for instance, have been shown by polling to be a killer political issue with GOP primary voters.
Rauner’s anti-union rhetoric and his (by many) unexpectedly strong Republican primary campaign have convinced unions that they need to step up soon. Plus, some public employee unions are so hostile to Gov. Pat Quinn because of pension reform that they don’t want to give the incumbent any money or help in the fall. So, this is all about knocking off “Public Enemy Number One” as early as possible.
Rauner has spent $300,000 a week on TV ads since the beginning of November, mainly to begin the process of inoculating himself against the expected labor union advertising blitz. He’s pushed his poll numbers up and has continued to freeze out his GOP rivals.
It’s abundantly clear that none of the other Republican candidates has the money to attack Rauner. Two of the three barely have enough cash to sustain their own day-to-day operations. And Rutherford only has enough for about a month of TV ads, if that. The only way that any sort of negative message about Rauner can be effectively advertised is if somebody else takes him on.
While Rauner leads in two recent polls, he’s still an almost completely unknown quantity to voters. His numbers are, in other words, wide but not deep. Shocking voters with some revelations about his background could very well knock him out. But his campaign has seen this union attack coming for a long time and they undoubtedly have at least some counter-measures planned. He won’t go away quietly.
Subscribers know more about this pending attack. Lots more.
* And this Cook County GOP development has a lot to do with the beginning of my column. As noted above, Illinois Republicans don’t like nobody what nobody sent. It’s why Rauner has concentrated so hard on winning local party endorsements. He’s trying very hard to look like the historically acceptable “it’s my turn” candidate. But pretty much everyone has missed that angle…
The Cook County Republican Party, beset by a lack of money, internal feuding and a long losing streak, has endorsed wealthy Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner for governor in the March primary election.
But the impact of the county GOP backing, announced Saturday, is questionable. The group reported less than $8,500 in its campaign fund as of Oct. 1, and carried a $400 debt to Aaron Del Mar, the county’s GOP chairman.
Moreover, while Cook County traditionally represents about 21 percent of the Republican primary vote in Illinois, the party lacks any significant organization to be able to deliver ballots. Some Republicans indicated privately that among the group’s 50 ward and 30 suburban townships, local groups still could back their own preferred contenders.
* It’s not about that handful of votes. It’s about how Rauner is quickly building an image of party elder acceptability. He’s been endorsed by several county and township parties this year. And that’s why candidates like Sen. Kirk Dillard are trying to discredit the endorsements. From a Dillard press release…
State Senator Kirk Dillard released the following statement today regarding the Cook County Republican Party endorsement:
“Today’s endorsement is yet another sad example of Bruce Rauner buying the election. Ask yourself: why would Cook County GOP bosses support Rauner, knowing that he voted democrat, gave millions of dollars to state and national democrats, is a Rahm Emanuel insider, AND hired a convicted Blagojevich insider to win state contracts? There’s only one explanation — the Bruce Rauner money machine was at work again. Only in Illinois would the legitimate concerns of rank-and-file, grassroots republicans be dismissed so brazenly. Welcome back, pay-to-play!
Our campaign is confident that we have the support of grassroots republicans, as we did in the last election when Cook County had an open convention which I won in a straw poll.”
* Also, check this out…
Maine Township committeeman Rosemary Mulligan, a former state representative, said she was personally lobbied by both Rauner and Dillard, who’s from neighboring DuPage County. She said she ultimately chose Rauner because of his close relationship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; the two men are friends and worked together on Chicago school reform issues.
That’ll make some heads explode.