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So far, so good

Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A solid week of horribly negative media coverage of Bruce Rauner was apparently outweighed by lots and lots of television ads because his numbers are still rising.

A new Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll found that Rauner’s lead increased in the Republican gubernatorial primary since late November.

The poll of 1,139 likely Republican primary voters taken January 14th found Rauner getting 34 percent of the vote, with state Sen. Bill Brady at 17 percent, Treasurer Dan Rutherford at 15 percent and state Sen. Kirk Dillard bringing up the rear at 9 percent.

A We Ask America poll taken November 26th after Rauner launched his holiday season TV ad blitz showed Rauner leading with 26 percent, to Brady’s 18 percent, to Rutherford’s 17 percent to Dillard’s 10 percent. Those numbers confirmed a Public Policy Polling survey taken just days before, which had Rauner leading with 24 percent.

So, essentially, the rest of the pack hasn’t moved at all, while Rauner has added eight points to his lead. Last week’s poll had a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent.

“Buoyed by a constant stream of quality TV ads, Mr. Rauner continues to gain ground,” said We Ask America pollster Greg Durham. “For now, it does not appear the negative press he’s recently received has resulted in producing any significant speed bumps. This race is far from settled, but the Rauner camp must feel like their plan is working.”

As you already know, twin scandals have buffeted Rauner’s campaign since the holiday season ended. He’s been hammered extensively for a December comment that surfaced in early January of Rauner demanding that the minimum wage be cut by a dollar an hour. Last week, the media focused on Rauner’s successful effort to clout his suburban daughter into a Chicago public school, followed by a $250,000 contribution to that school.

But “earned media” attacks don’t work like they used to, particularly in GOP primaries where a hardcore strand of voters tends to discount the “mainstream media.”

Most importantly, though, is that none of Rauner’s opponents have yet to run a single TV ad. Paid media, and in particular television, moves numbers. Period. End of story. And Rauner has had the TV all to himself.

Rauner’s massive TV spending is having a profound impact. Just 25 percent of GOP primary voters say they’re undecided. Rauner leads in almost every geographic region in the state, with his biggest numbers racked up in the vote rich collar counties. There, Rauner scores a whopping 44 percent. He’s also way ahead in suburban Cook County, with 37 percent. And he has 27 percent in Downstate, which puts him 8 points ahead of both Brady and Rutherford. Treasurer Rutherford leads in Chicago, according to the poll, but only by three points.

Speaking of Treasurer Rutherford, he reported raising about $400,000 in the fourth quarter last year and had just under $1.4 million in his campaign bank account.

When he puts that money on TV, Rutherford could take advantage of any effect that labor unions will have on the primary. If the upcoming multimillion dollar labor union-financed TV advertising blitz manages to disqualify Rauner in GOP voters’ minds, then Rutherford’s ads could convince those voters to head his way.

Right now, though, Republican primary voters are divided on whom they would choose if Rauner is taken out of the equation.

We asked Rauner supporters: “If information emerged that would cause you to withdraw your support for Bruce Rauner, for whom would you vote?”

According to the poll, 22 percent of former Rauner backers would choose Rutherford, 20 percent picked Brady and 16 percent backed Dillard. But 42 percent remained undecided.

Sen. Brady has raised just about zero cash in the last six months and Sen. Dillard’s campaign is barely staying afloat. So the poll and common sense indicate that Rutherford could be the most likely candidate to take advantage when the union money starts pouring in against Rauner.

But Rauner could then start attacking Rutherford, and anybody else who starts climbing in the polls. It’s gonna get complicated.

And that’s very important to remember. The poll shows what it shows on the day it was taken. But voters can only express a preference based on the information they currently have, and there will be a whole lot more info - mostly bad - coming very soon.

Those last two paragraphs are absolutely necessary to keep in mind as this thing moves forward. 2010 showed how volatile the Republican primary electorate can be, and that’s why I voted “No” last week on our question which asked whether anybody should drop out.

Carol Marin has an alternate take here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


27 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:07 am:

    Rauner has to be very happy where he’s at right now.

    He can’t kill the clock, but the other guys are down by a couple of scores, at least. They’re going to need a turnover or two to get back in it.

    It’s pretty amazing how the other three weren’t prepared for this. They never stopped running for governor since the last election. Rauner outhustled them in shutting them out from the money guys. No crying when you’re outhustled.


  2. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:08 am:

    It’s a combination of cash, a strong focused campaign staff and tons of personal appearances that are moving his numbers. So far, all the pundits are just talking about the money.


  3. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:08 am:

    A trip to the Chicago Tribune comment section of any Rauner story certainly serves as an illustration of the GOP base’s willingness to see every exposure of a Rauner shortcoming or mistake not as a Rauner flaw, but as a reason to like him solely because the MSM and Dems don’t like him.


  4. - Downstate - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:18 am:

    -hisgirlfriday.
    I think you hit the nail on the head. Many voters (particularly Republicans) see the state as being stuck in the “status quo”.
    Every time the union or Brillaford attack Rauner, it only seems to reinforce the message that Rauner is not the status quo candidate.


  5. - Samurai - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:26 am:

    GirlFriday===Beat me to the post. The base is undeterred in their support for BVR. The commenters have a ready rationalization for anything he has done so far. Perhaps we are at a point, as sad as it may be, where the thought is they all have baggage so lets go with the “new” guy.


  6. - Try-4-Truth - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:28 am:

    The problem for the Republicans is the same problem they have been having for quite some time. Rauner will not be able to escape paid attacks in the general. Quinn is tenacious. If the R’s nominate this guy, he will go into the general with a lot of bagage running against a candidate that has the money and the will to pound him mercilessly.


  7. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:31 am:

    ===running against a candidate that has the money and the will to pound him mercilessly===

    And what if Rauner pulls a Bloomberg and spends $100 million of his own money on the general?


  8. - In the Middle - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:33 am:

    “Most importantly, though, is that none of Rauner’s opponents have yet to run a single TV ad.”

    Rauner isn’t playing conservatively. He’s run so many ads that the momentum is now strongly in his favor. A few missteps isn’t going to magically drop him from the race at this point.


  9. - Big Muddy - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    Try4truth,
    All BaronVonCarhartt will do against Quinn, who will not have more money than Brucy to spend, is hammer how he is bought and paid for by union bosses. It’s working now, it will work then. Not saying he’s right, just saying Quinn is weaker than you think against BVC.


  10. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    @Rich -

    If Rauner spends $100 million in the general, Rauner could still lose to Quinn like Meg Whitman lost to Jerry Brown.

    I happen to think Rauner is a better candidate than Whitman was but I don’t know enough about Rauners background to know for sure what other shoes are left to drop or whether, like Whitman, he might have some politically troublesome house help at one of his 9 houses to cause him some heartburn.


  11. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:50 am:

    “television ads”

    In one of the new ads, Rauner says he is not against union members, but union bosses. Plenty of union members and government workers are union bosses. Many of the “union bosses” who are at the contract negotiation table are government workers who are union leaders. Rauner is trying to have it both ways in attacking unions but sparing their members. This may work for those posting in the Trib comment section, and it may help him win any election, but it doesn’t make him a good candidate, in my opinion.

    If you’re going to scapegoat, at least do it correctly.


  12. - Try-4-Truth - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:51 am:

    @ Rich - The Illinois political landscape is littered with millionaires spending their own money to no avail. A few questions: 1.) Will the Illinois Democratic Party (official party, not rank and file) be engaged to put Quinn over in November?; 2.) Competitive house / senate / congressional races matter too, so where are those races which could tell us whose voters are engaged; 3.) Do unions hate (fear) Rauner more than they are mad at Quinn?

    Here’s my point, R’s had a golden opportunity to capture the Gov’s mansion (not that anyone lives there) in 2010. They were running against the LT. Gov of an impeached and indicted Gov. in a Rep. wave year. It didn’t happen for them. Maybe Bruce will win, maybe not, I don’t make predictions, but I just don’t see Rauner as the guy who could get it done. We’ll see I guess.


  13. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    Rauner’s having TV all to himself is a huge advantage in the GOP primary.

    If he gets there, the general election won’t be the same. Quinn will have resources. True, Rauner could still outspend him with his personal fortune, but he won’t have the airwaves to himself and a lot of spending will be on defense.

    Plus, in the general, most of the electorate will be locked down; the game will be between the forty yard lines for those crazy undecided independents.

    At some point with those guys, spot fatigue kicks in and there’s a point of diminishing returns for excessive spending. In a general, Rauner will increasingly have to face the media and stand on his own feet.


  14. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    =…where the thought is they all have baggage so lets go with the “new” guy.”

    lol Rauner has plenty of “baggage” and “kudos” from what I’ll call “all three sides.” It’s the baggage from two that overrides the kudos from the third–especially as one interpretation links all three together and not in a very nice way. Hence, the reason the Rauner campaign probably hasn’t raised it in defending Rauner’s credibility as a Republican–especially when he’s attacked for being a Dem.


  15. - Stones - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    Perhaps I am making the mistake of underestimating Rauner but my sense is that he is considered the best of a bunch of poor options for the R’s by virtue of money & nothing else.


  16. - Downstate - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 10:56 am:

    @stones,
    If you think R’s are gravitating to Rauner solely because of his money - you are underestimating him.
    He has been a fixture downstate (been in our County at least 6 times already). He comes across as genuine on the stump and is personable.


  17. - Samurai - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    Anonymous==Not sure of the response. Sure, Rauner has plenty of baggage. What I meant is the notion believed by many in the R base that Rauner’s three opponent’s are career politicians (which I don’t think is necessarily a negative), who have been a part of the problem. During endorsement sessions in very conservative townships there is a sentiment that “well, sure Rauner has these negative clouting issues, Stuart Levine on Payroll, Rahm, etc., but now is our only chance to effect change.” I disagree with this sentiment and have no optimism about the change BVR will bring. Also, Rauner–but for his money (big but, I know)–is weaker than Dillard or Rutherford in the general. Many of the same BVR endorser’s of Rauner went with McKenna last time. Of course Rauner is not McKenna.


  18. - Person 8 - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    One of the big questions I have is, how many democrats will cross over and vote in the republican race? Especially since the unions are unhappy with Quinn, there may be a strong push to get some Democrats voting in the GOP election.


  19. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    “whole lot more info–mostly bad–coming very soon”

    We are staying tuned.


  20. - Hans Sanity - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    I am naive enough to believe that the non-Rauner candidates will effectively defend their records while calling out Rauner for trying to get into Springfield on a campaign of “get out of Springfield” soundbites.


  21. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 11:41 am:

    Samurai and Hans: The type of Primary campaign Rauner’s team is running has a certain “trademark” stamped all over it. We’ll see if it’s generally noticed (I believe it is) and how much of a difference that awareness makes.


  22. - Stones - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    Downstate - you are probably correct. He may be personable and a decent guy but do you think that the primary electorate is buying this hooey about “running the State like a business”? Only a layperson would buy that statement.


  23. - langhorne - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    sad to say, its rauners race to lose at this point. he has a 2:1 lead over his two closest opponents, w 7 weeks to go. and a load of cash. (has he blocked out the others w media buys?). if he gets half the undecideds, maybe less, he has it.

    this race needs a game changer. union ads, maybe. union crossovers, maybe. rutherford ads, maybe. more oppo revelations, maybe. debate stumble, maybe, (which could apply to any of the four).

    i would like to see a head to head poll, to see if it would still be around 40/40 for any of the four musketeers vs Q. if thats around the corner, and thats the result, no one drops out.

    i think dillard should face reality. he hasnt been able to crack double digits. drop out.


  24. - Samurai - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    Stones==He may be personable and a decent guy but do you think that the primary electorate is buying this hooey about “running the State like a business”?==

    Apparently so. Three types: (1) Low information voters who dig the Carhartt look; (2) The Banker class; and (3)the throw out the “career politicians” and term limits crowd.


  25. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 2:25 pm:

    Samurai, you’re being way too “traditional” in your thinking. And I don’t say that with great zeal.


  26. - OpacityOH - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 3:18 pm:

    Rauner is the perfect storm. ILGOP stallwarts can stand to learn from him. His Strategy is a lesson in itself:
    1.From the start he sewed up all the big ticket donors (he who controls the purse…)
    2. He aligned himself with some of the more volatile and unruly voices in the GOP (eq. Roeser) that have caused other candidates problems in the past. This is a tactic right out of an Alinsky playbook and will serve him well.
    3. He has gone to the well in attempts (albeit failed) at outreach to Latinos. This contrasts Rutherford’s “I have an Asian and Latino Friend” approach. This will pay off in the general. Mind you he still doesn’t have the right people around the table- but that will change in time.
    4. He is killing it in his ad/media campaign. One of the privelages of a deep war chest.
    So regardless of how bad the finger wagging will get and how potentially damaging the news may be- he will pull it out through the the primaries. He might stand to back off poking the “union beehive”. There will be plenty of time for that in the general election.


  27. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Jan 21, 14 @ 7:17 pm:

    Well, you’d think that after all of the legitimate criticism heaped on Rauner in recent weeks that this thing’d be a heck of a lot closer. Obviously not so…assuming the Poll is relatively accurate.

    Hence, it’s really up to that 25% of the Undecided GOP Vote, and unless, oh maybe 3/5ths of those, or 15%, break toward Rutherford or Brady (with likely the Treasurer the only one of THAT twosome with the RE$ources to get his message out so as to MAYbe nab that chunk IF he’s REALly lucky), and/or combined with Kirk dropping out and enDORSing Rutherford (yet I wouldn’t bet on that either), it looks like Quinn had better start preppin’ for the Rich kid come November (and you can be sure he’ll be lickin’ his chops for THAT Contest while he’s securing his “8-Month Special Warrantied to Clobber Wealthy Pseudo-Republicans’ BOXing Gloves” onto his fists, ‘cuz the Governor has so many Rauner Flaws to whale away at, he (and his strongly-supported Union Friends with THEIR Upcoming Attack Ads to boot!) won’t even know where to start)!!!


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