* My weekly syndicated newspaper column, reformatted to Crain’s style…
Let’s talk about one of the weirdest things that happened this campaign season.
Earlier this year, ultraconservative activist Jack Roeser told me that his friend Bruce Rauner believed life began at conception. “I’d describe him as a guy who is a morally right-to-life guy, but not on the hustings,” Mr. Roeser, who has since passed away, said about Mr. Rauner.
Jack and many of his right-to-life allies backed Mr. Rauner every step of the way, while the candidate, who belatedly admitted that he’s pro-choice, spent much of the Republican primary focusing his attention on pledging battles with Springfield Democrats and their teachers union allies and fighting for term limits.
The candidate has often said that he has “no social agenda,” and would instead focus solely on cleaning up government and getting the economy running again. But he also wanted to avoid stressing social issues for fear of alienating a relatively small but still important base of Republican voters who just won’t vote for a pro-choicer of any party. Every vote counts, especially if you’re a Republican running in Democratic-leaning Illinois.
But the issue exploded during the campaign’s final week. As I’ve told you before, Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union — one of Gov. Pat Quinn’s strongest supporters — spent big bucks supporting the unabashedly pro-life, pro-gun Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Chad Grimm. The idea was to siphon votes away from the GOP candidate. Like I said, every vote counts if you’re a Republican in Illinois.
The Republican Party of Illinois pushed back, sending mailers and doing thousands of robocalls warning Republicans that Mr. Quinn and his allies were trying to “steal” the election by pushing the Libertarian, and claiming that Mr. Grimm was for gay marriage and belonged to a party that is officially pro-choice.
Mr. Rauner has contributed about 80 percent of every dollar the party has raised. He installed a loyal ally as party chairman. They haven’t done much over there without first checking in with the candidate.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice group Personal PAC launched a TV attack ad on Mr. Rauner in Chicago. The ad urged viewers to vote for the statewide ballot initiative on employer mandated birth control, and claimed Mr. Rauner had given millions to “right-wing groups and politicians who oppose birth control coverage”
Mr. Rauner himself had earlier aired a TV ad only in the Chicago area touting his “pro-choice” views. The Personal PAC ad was designed to counter Rauner’s message.
Not long after, the Rauner-funded Illinois Republican Party countered the Personal PAC ad with a Chicago TV ad claiming that the pro-choice Mr. Rauner was for employer-funded birth control.
Talk about your mixed messages on all sides.
You’ve got your Quinn-backing unions pushing an anti-union Libertarian because he’s pro-life and pro-gun, while giving even more money to Mr. Quinn, who is pro-choice and a major proponent of gun control.
You’ve got your Republican candidate claiming he’s pro-choice.
And you’ve got the almost totally Rauner-funded state GOP saying he’s for employer-funded birth control while spending big bucks (mostly Mr. Rauner’s) to warn rank and file Republicans against voting for a pro-gay marriage candidate from a pro-choice party.
The Democrats were outraged, incensed even that Mr. Rauner would be so duplicitous. It was proof, they said, that Mr. Rauner was really anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage at heart.
The Democrats only said that in Chicago, of course.
The truth is they’ve been planning this all along. Folks at the very top of the Quinn campaign told me during the summer they were going to make trouble for Mr. Rauner with Downstate conservatives by pushing him as far to the left as they could in Chicago.
The Democrats’ close allies helped keep the pro-life, pro-gun Libertarian on the ballot when the Republicans tried to kick him off and then they funded his campaign in order to peel votes away from Rauner.
In other words, the Quinn campaign was behind what spies call a “false flag operation.” And Mr. Rauner funded two diametrically opposed advertising messages about abortion at the same time in an attempt to save his political neck.
I don’t know who will win the election. But I sure know who lost.
* Meanwhile, this e-mail coming to light is probably not what you want to see when you’re on a major Downstate swing trying to gin up the conservative base…
From: Diana Rauner
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2014 4:04 PM
Subject: Bruce Rauner is pro-choice!
Hi friends, so sorry to flood your inbox, but you know how committed I am to reproductive rights; and I can’t stand to sit by while Personal PAC unleashes yet another round of attacks against Bruce. Here are the facts:
Bruce has been one of the largest supporters of the ACLU Reproductive Rights Project for over 20 years. He has been a major supporter of Planned Parenthood both locally and nationally for a similar time, such that Cecile Richards told her local staff in Illinois earlier this year, “if I hear anything negative about Bruce Rauner my head will explode.”
Bruce has been unequivocal in his support for reproductive rights throughout a contentious Republican primary and publicly stated his support for reproductive rights in primary debates. He won the primary despite his pro-choice stance, in part by convincing pro-lifers to put aside their views on this issue in favor of economic ones.
Bruce has been in conversation with Personal PAC for over two years. Theirs was the only questionnaire that he has completed in this race, and the only question he got “wrong” was on parental notification. Bruce supports it– I don’t, but 75-80% of the population does, including a majority of people who consider themselves pro-choice.
* New York Times…
Democrats are nervously counting on an enduring edge among female voters in most states to prevent a Republican rout in Tuesday’s elections. Yet so great is the uncertainty that even before the returns are in, some are second-guessing the party’s strategy of focusing more on issues like abortion and birth control than on jobs and the economy.
The danger for Democratic candidates is that their advantage among women could be so reduced by dissatisfaction with President Obama and the country’s course that it is not enough to offset Republicans’ usual edge among the smaller population of male voters. Should that happen, a party pollster, Geoff Garin, acknowledged, “They’ll lose.”
But he and other Democratic strategists professed optimism, however tempered, for the party’s imperiled Senate majority, among other things. Mr. Garin pointed to surveys of states with the most competitive Senate contests showing that on average Democratic candidates lead among women by about 12 points, while men favor the Republican by an average of nine points. Since women account for more than half the electorate, Democrats theoretically can withstand some erosion of support.
As for the party’s emphasis on women’s issues, he said, “If Democrats weren’t running on these issues, the situation would be much worse.” […]
“On balance, I am not convinced the Democrats will make sufficient inroads with white women to make up for the margin by which they are going to lose white men,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster.