* Here’s the first part of my syndicated newspaper column. We’ll get to the rest of it a bit later, for reasons you’ll understand when we do it…
If Bruce Rauner manages to successfully back away from his recently unearthed statement from December that he favored reducing the state’s minimum wage by a dollar an hour he will have dodged a very serious political bullet.
According to a new Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll, the idea is absolutely hated in Illinois. Asked if they would be “more likely or less likely to vote for a gubernatorial candidate who supports lowering the state’s minimum wage to the national rate of $7.25 an hour,” a whopping 79 percent said they’d be less likely. That’s definitely a result that could move actual votes on election day, particularly in the context of the messenger: a hugely wealthy political unknown whose advertising campaign is trying hard to turn him into a “regular guy.”
Women were 84 percent less likely and men were 73 percent less likely to vote for a candidate who wanted to lower the minimum wage by a buck an hour, according to the poll taken January 8th of 1,135 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. Democrats were 90 percent less likely, while independents were 77 percent less likely and even Republicans were 63 percent less likely to vote for such a candidate.
As the controversy was building last week, Rauner told a Carbondale audience that if the minimum wage was increased here he would only support it if the state also made “our labor regulations and our tax burden much more attractive to small business.” He added that he could still support lowering the minimum wage “in the context of dramatically improving our schools and creating a business environment where everybody’s got jobs.”
But by Wednesday, Rauner had completely backed away, claiming he was “flippant” when he unequivocally said in a December forum in the Quad Cities that he wanted to roll back the minimum wage to the national level because Illinois’ dollar an hour difference was “hurting our economy.” After a huge firestorm of controversy erupted, Rauner claimed that he could actually support raising the minimum wage, as long as it was coupled with some key legal changes like unspecified workers’ comp and tort reforms.
The Democratic Governors Association, which has formed an Illinois political action committee that will likely be used as a conduit to attack Rauner in the GOP primary, attempted to counter Rauner’s spin.
“They say a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth,” said DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner. “In the case of Bruce Rauner, he showed his true colors when he said that Illinois’ minimum wage needs to be cut… and voters won’t soon forget.”
If voters do forget, then Rauner’s new position in favor of increasing the minimum wage finds favor with a majority of voters when asked: “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a gubernatorial candidate who supports raising the state’s minimum wage rate to $10 an hour?”
According to the poll, 55 percent of likely Illinois voters would be more likely to support such a candidate, while 38 percent would be less likely. Women would be far more supportive (62 percent) than men (46 percent) of such a candidate. And it’s a make or break issue for 81 percent of Democrats.
But a strong 65 percent of Republicans would be less likely to support a candidate who backed a hike to $10 an hour, so Rauner may have now created a problem with his GOP primary voter base.
Subscribers have crosstabs and more polling results on this issue.
* GOP minimum wage debate could be muted by Democratic action: Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the House will be working “closely” with the Senate and Quinn on the issue. “It’s always a topic that is of great interest to Democrats because they understand that this isn’t anymore an entry level wage,” Brown said Friday. “I’m sure there will be plenty of House Democrats willing to take a look at it.”
* Rauner brushes off minimum-wage flap, attacks Quinn: “No, I don’t think it’s going to be a big impact at all,” Rauner said when asked about the issue that’s dogged him over the past week. Then, he blasted the governor. “Quinn is failing working families and low-income families in this state,” Rauner said. “He’s been a massive failure. We have brutal unemployment. We have jobs leaving the state. We are de-funding our schools, cutting school funding, and we’re shredding the social-services safety net. All the stuff that Quinn supposedly says he cares about, he is failing.”
* Rauner greeted by protesters in Elmhurst: He responded to the presence of the protesters by linking them to the unions to which many of them belong. “They are making their money from government and they are not really, really here about the wages,” said Rauner. “They’re here because we’re going to shake up those special deals they’ve got with the corrupt politicians.”
* Rauner Does Damage Control at Decatur Campaign Stop: “I’m not a politician,” he said. “I’ll have bumps in the road. Sometimes I’ll speak out of turn in a certain way, or be incomplete in my explanations. I’m sorry. I’ll correct it and I’ll move on.”
* Republican rivals try to capitalize on Rauner’s minimum wage stumble: Asked what damage Rauner caused Republicans, Brady said: “Well, here you’ve got a very wealthy guy running to cut pay for people trying to raise a family by $2,000 a year per person employed on minimum wage. That’s not what Republicans stand for. We stand for greater opportunity, not cutting pay to working families.” Brady has had his own problems with the minimum wage issue. Running against Quinn in 2010, weeks before Illinois’ $8.25 rate took effect, he said he backed lowering it to the federal rate for the sake of competitiveness. Brady altered his position to say the state rate should stay at the current level to allow the federal rate to catch up.
* Durbin adds to attack on Rauner: “I can tell you that people have forgotten his $18 watch,” Durbin said, “because a man who proposes cutting the minimum wage is out of touch with working families.”
* Editorial: Bruce Rauner’s epic about-face: The problem with Rauner seems to be that he wants to answer questions on his own terms when he is good and ready. That’s not the way politics works, as he is learning.
* Finke: Rauner trips over changing stances