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This ain’t another Gidwitz

Monday, Aug 26, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has focused like a laser on his absolute disgust with public employee unions like AFSCME, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. The wealthy former business executive claims the unions are the root of most of Illinois’ problems and has decried the “corrupting” influence of their campaign cash on both political parties.

Illinois Republicans appear to overwhelmingly agree with Rauner.

“Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a Republican candidate for governor who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from public employee unions? ” 1,614 likely Republican primary voters were asked August 21st in a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll.

An overwhelming 80 percent said they’d be less likely to back such a candidate, while a mere 8 percent said they’d be more likely to do so.

The Rauner campaign claims that rival candidate state Sen. Kirk Dillard has received over $400,000 from public employee unions during his long career. Dillard has defended his friendship with the unions by saying they should be worked with, but has also pointed to his support for union-opposed pension reform bills. Even so, that labor cash appears to be a no-go for Dillard.

Rauner’s other two opponents, Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Sen. Bill Brady, have also received significant contributions from public employee unions, and Rauner’s campaign has made it clear those ties will be used against them as well.

Rauner has also formed a new, well-funded political action committee to push for term limits. When asked if they’d be more or less likely to support a GOP gubernatorial candidate “who supports a constitutional amendment limiting the number of terms state legislators may serve,” 76 percent of Republicans said they’d be more likely, while a mere 13 percent said they’d be less likely and 12 percent said it made no difference.

Sen. Brady says he supports legislative term limits, but he was first elected to the General Assembly 21 years ago. Treasurer Rutherford and Sen. Dillard are both on record opposing term limits.

Both Brady and Dillard voted for a bill which allowed illegal immigrants to apply for state drivers licenses. A whopping 83 percent of likely Republican primary voters said that this vote would make them less likely to support those candidates.

It’s unlikely that Rauner would make a campaign issue out of those immigration votes, since he’d have a tough time winning the fall election if he “goes there.” The Latino vote, as I’ve pointed out time and time again, has gained incredible strength in this state. But Rauner has already benefited from third party TV ad spending, which helped drive Congressman Aaron Schock out of the race, and some of his supporters, including ultra-conservative millionaire Jack Roeser, are probably in a position to “help” make this an issue if necessary.

Roeser, by the way, wasn’t happy that Rauner admitted to being pro-choice earlier this year. But the activist has stuck with Rauner, likely because of his outright hostility toward the teachers’ unions. Roeser has long despised those unions.

A July 16th We Ask America poll found that Republican primary voters aren’t all that uniform on the issue anyway. Just 45 percent said they’d be less likely to vote for a pro-choice gubernatorial candidate. But 32 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate and 23 percent said the issue made no difference, meaning that Rauner’s position doesn’t really hurt him with over half the primary electorate.

Since a recent poll found that 83 percent of GOP primary voters would be less likely to vote for Rauner because of his close ties to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Dillard and Brady have amped up their criticism of that relationship

But, so far, neither Dillard nor Brady have shown they can raise the kind of money needed to run an effective negative paid media campaign.

And while those other candidates struggle to raise the money necessary to get on the air, Rauner can run all the ads he needs to tout the issues that put him on the same side of the vast majority of Republican primary voters, and connect his opponents to the opposition.

Rauner seems to have a very deliberate, poll-tested victory strategy. He’s no lock, but he has a workable plan.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 8:51 am:

    Rauner’s the most cynical and vulgar statewide candidate in memory.

    – billionaire who made a fortune through pay-to-play off of public employee pensions but now wants to steal from those who worked for a living all their lives.

    – contributed millions to long-time insider Democrats, but now he’s Mr. Republican Outsider who wants term limits.

    – a North Shore resident who badmouths the Chicago Public Schools, but used his clout with Democrats to get his daughter enrolled in one ( because New Trier wasn’t good enough for him) taking a spot from a deserving Chicago kid.

    – Dartmouth and Harvard, but acts like he’s Farmer Bruce.

    The guy apparently is ashamed of who he is, because his campaign rejects everything he’s ever been about. He can’t be trusted on anything. I’ll vote for Anybody But.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 8:56 am:

    I have really stayed away from this, but I agree with Rich, but my caveat is pretty simple;

    If people don’t like you when you are on TV, or you turn out to be not what people though you were, MORE of you they see of you, the more they are going to remember they don’t like you.

    Great job, Rich, I totally get “It”, but I am going to wait just a bit to “buy in” 100%, because GOP Primary voters who may be “educated” on the Payton Prep Clouter, may just un-like Rauner the more they see Rauner.

    It’s a race to see if Rauner can fool the voters, and fool the media, before any or all of the other 3 candidates, or the Media can define the REAL … Payton Prep Clouter & Rich Daley and Rahm Emanuel donor, buying “access”, be it for school reform, or pensions with a governor like Rendell.

    The “race” within the race… is on.

  3. - Loop Lady - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:00 am:

    This is a defining issue in the GOP race? Not IL overall fiscal miasma? Tunnel vision. Lame. God forbid one of their own works to the benefit of the middle class.

  4. - too obvious - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:04 am:

    Good column. And I agree Rauner has a narrative that may look good on paper.

    But I see no evidence that he’s getting much traction. There’s a perception out there that Rauner is new on the scene, an opportunist, and just a Chicago Democrat trying to use the R ballot line so he can become governor and make even more money off Illinois pension funds. Rauner’s problem is there is more than a grain of truth to all that.

    I don’t see any amount of money swaying a plurality of the GOP primary electorate, even with the weak competition he’s got. You can’t just show up one day and decide you want to be governor. There is no precedent for it.

  5. - Mouthy - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:04 am:

    Money wins.

  6. - olddog - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:05 am:

    Scary. Did you poll for Jim Crow voter ID laws?

  7. - Rufus - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:12 am:

    Because of the huge number of political appointees by the governor, unions are a necessity. If there were no unions, these appointees, most of them being incompetent in there jobs, would fire state workers for the slightest reason, then replacing them with their friends. The state would be worse off then it is now.

  8. - Bill White - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:16 am:

    As charter school data starts rolling in, the dire consequences of hiring teachers based on the casual whim of administrators are becoming clear.

    Teacher unions provide a necessary “checks and balances” safeguard.

  9. - langhorne - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:20 am:

    great. so, aside from rabid opposition to public employee unions, the first “real” issue that rauner wants to connect with, is term limits. not workable, wont pass, and wouldnt make things better if it did. just peachy. (btw, get some calhoun county peaches while they are currently fantastic)

    much, much better to take a run at independent, or at least more balanced and competitive, redistricting constl amendment.

  10. - Bill White - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:23 am:

    === the first “real” issue that rauner wants to connect with, is term limits. not workable, wont pass, and wouldnt make things better if it did. ===


    Pat Quinn (together with Aldo Botti) already got farther with term limits than Bruce Rauner ever will.

  11. - Downstater - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:24 am:

    Rutherford has the best chance of coming out of the primary, as the winner. He has spent years going around the state speaking to group after group building up good will and name ID. Rauner is bombastic and will flame out in the end.

  12. - walkinfool - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:45 am:

    I’ve been holding out to see if Rauner is actually better than he appeared to be early in the process.

    Well, too late. He’s just not what I had hoped for, and Roeser’s continued support for him confirms that.

  13. - x ace - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 9:55 am:

    Wordslinger said it all above - on target on all counts

  14. - votecounter - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 10:00 am:

    This hit my in box Thursday
    By Emily Pierce
    Roll Call Staff
    Aug. 30, 2004
    Investment company executive Bruce Rauner gave $200,000 to the Club for Growth in January of this year, after giving $25,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2003 and $40,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2000. Rauner has also donated to the campaigns of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
    Rauner described himself as a social liberal but conservative on fiscal policy. “The Club for Growth doesn’t get into social stuff. It’s about low taxes and low-regulation,” he said.

    The GOP primary voters have a great network for communicating candidates positions going around Mainstream media. Mr. Rauner does hit on some issues that are close to primary voters hearts but his refusal to talk about let alone answer questions about his stand on life and family will be his downfall. What his candidacy does is beg for someone else to come in late. However if Rauner were to be able to build some sort of relationship with the grassroots who knows?

  15. - John Galt - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    Money wins.

    Money HELPS. But if it always won, the GOP nominee in 2010 would’ve been Andy McKenna. Instead, he came in 4th. But I DO remember the “Blago Hair” ads all over TV…

    Money helps, and if used overwhelmingly it significantly boosts the chances of winning. But that’s provided that:

    1) The message isn’t so transparent that it (or the grassroots word on the street) just ends up falling flat. As others have said, sometimes ads can just grate on people if they don’t like the candidate.


    2) The rest of the field can develop a threshold of money to fight back with. They don’t need as much, but they need some threshold to get on the radar. At some point, the money advantage is a diminishing return. The big question for this cycle is actually twofold–First, can the field raise that threshold amount of money to not get totally drowned out by Rauner. And second, does the field marshal their combined money resources to take down Rauner’s decided money advantage and hope that their own ground games carry themselves individually across the finish line? Or do the other three candidates take their limited resources, sling mud at each other in an effort to become the clear “non-Rauner” candidate, and hope that Rauner’s campaign collapses of it’s own weight.

  16. - walkinfool - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    ==his refusal to talk about let alone answer questions about his stand on life and family will be his downfall==

    Great post about GOP primary voters. Thanks.

  17. - Joe from Joliet - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 10:45 am:

    …Rutherford has spent years going around the state…

    Rutherford has spent a lot of tax money on his I-Cash dashes. Must be nice to have taxpayers finance his travels just so he can tell everyone he has been in every county in the state. But he will tell you he will be a responsible steward of our money as governor. Yeah, right.

  18. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 11:17 am:

    I’ve been saying this all year and despite the negative views from so many on this board, Rauner is clearly the one to watch. Nice column Rich.

  19. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 11:39 am:

    Rauner is clearly running a fairly good early media campaign. Because he is less known to the Repub. primary voters, his pick for Lt. Governor may be more important than the other candidates.

  20. - Cheswick - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 11:51 am:

    So, if campaign cash from unions is corrupting, then campaign cash from corporations must be pure and wholesome. *snort*

  21. - Dan Johnson - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 1:16 pm:

    That’s a really interesting path to victory.

    I didn’t realize he managed to hold onto his pro-choice status and Roeser. That’s a slippery path to walk. I don’t know how he holds on to his pro-choice status and wins the primary. I know your poll says half don’t care, but the intensity of pro-life (or anti-choice, OK Terry…) voters is really high and the pro-choice GOP voters are interested in other issues. But maybe that’s fading with age.

    I imagine he will have, by far, the most commercials on television in January and February of any candidate for any race. And the most negative commercials against his opponent.

    Maybe the GOP primary in 14 will be like Rod v. Judy in 06 when the money wave was able to define the opponent.

    Really interesting.

  22. - downstate hack - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 1:43 pm:

    “Maybe the GOP primary in 14 will be like Rod v. Judy in 06 when the money wave was able to define the opponent.”

    One difference Rod could focus on Judy, while Rauner has four major opponents so it is harder to define all of them.

  23. - Dan Johnson - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 2:14 pm:

    Good point hack.

  24. - Rod - Monday, Aug 26, 13 @ 3:27 pm:

    As a Democrat I find the good common sense of the Republicans on this blog to be disturbing. I had hoped you all would have been happy to drink the Rauner Kool-Aid. What a let down.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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