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A closer look at that Simon poll and what it bodes for the future

Monday, Mar 20, 2017

You may have heard about a recent Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll which found that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s job disapproval ratings have almost doubled in the past two years, from 31 percent in March of 2015 to 58 percent this month. According to the poll, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s current disapproval rating is 61 percent, about the same as his 63 percent disapproval rating last October. Rauner’s disapproval rating last October was 55 percent.

During this long governmental impasse, Speaker Madigan has championed the cause of unions and working people against the governor’s attempts to take rights and benefits away from them. But the Democrat is actually underwater with union members. According to the Simon poll, 55 percent of respondents who said they belong to a union disapprove of Madigan’s job performance, including 38 percent who strongly disapprove. Just 34 percent of union members approve of his job performance, while only 12 percent strongly approve. All this pain and they still don’t like him.

But union members dislike the governor far more. The poll found that 72 percent of union members disapprove of Rauner’s job performance, and half of union members strongly disapprove. Only 24 percent approve. On Rauner, anyway, the union message has gotten out.

At the very beginning of this impasse almost two years ago, a top Madigan operative told me the plan was to drag Rauner down to the same polling levels as the House Speaker. They’re very nearly there.

Gov. Rauner is polling horribly everywhere. Fifty-eight percent of suburbanites and 56 percent of downstaters disapprove of his job performance. Another 62 percent of moderates, 60 percent of independents, 47 percent of born-again Christians, 55 percent of men, 61 percent of women, 56 percent of seniors, 54 percent of whites, 56 percent of those making over $100,000 a year and 55 percent of non-union members all disapprove of his job performance.

The same day, JB Pritzker announced he was forming an exploratory committee to run for governor, the Illinois Republican Party made a wildly unsubstantiated claim that the Democrat was “at the center of Blagojevich’s criminal scheme to sell Illinois’ Senate seat.” Like it or not, this is our future.

Barring a dramatic turnaround in his approval ratings, Gov. Rauner’s only sure path to reelection is to make his opponent look even uglier than he does - and he looks pretty darned ugly right now. But he’s also got a very expensive ugly stick with which he can bludgeon the other side. He’s already deposited $50 million into his campaign bank account and there’s plenty more cash where that came from. So, 2018 will not only likely be the most expensive gubernatorial race in history, it’ll be the meanest, because now that the governor has opened the door to these sorts of crazy attacks, the other side will undoubtedly respond in-kind.

Rauner has spent tens of millions of dollars muddying up Speaker Madigan’s image and he’ll definitely use this “issue” against whoever his opponent will be. Campaigns are usually referendums on the incumbent, so Rauner will attempt to make Madigan and whoever his alleged puppet gubernatorial candidate is the incumbents while positioning himself as the outsider trying to change things for the better. For the past two years, the whole plan has been to equate “Democrat” with “Madigan” in voters’ minds. And it’s had some success.
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“When is a Democrat going to run a campaign for that 61 percent?” a Democratic operative asked me last week, referring to the obvious opportunity to capitalize on Madigan’s 61 percent disapproval rating. To the operative, this is a no-brainer. Run a campaign that criticizes both Rauner and Madigan. After all, even more Democrats disapprove of Madigan’s job performance (47 percent) than approve (40 percent), while 27 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove and only a tiny 9 percent strongly approve.

So far, announced Democratic candidate Chris Kennedy has seemed to go out of his way to avoid directly criticizing Madigan. Even Ameya Pawar, the progressive Democratic candidate, hasn’t really launched on the guy. Pritzker hasn’t granted any serious interviews and hasn’t issued any substantive policy statements, so we don’t know yet where he’ll stand.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has not done much of anything to equate “Republican” with “Rauner” in voters’ minds. Rauner’s numbers were almost as bad last October as they are now, but the Democrats barely mentioned him in their campaigns. It’s probably time to start thinking about that.

* Whet Moser adds this bit of historical context

In 2013, Pat Quinn was judged to be the second-most-vulnerable governor in America by FiveThirtyEight, with a net job-approval rating of -24 percentage points. Rick Scott of Florida was third at -20. Scott won reelection by just one percent of the vote against a weak opponent; Quinn, of course, lost by a substantial margin. Today, Rauner sits at -22 points—in the parlance of the month, on the bubble.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:14 am:

    Just imagine what Rauner’s numbers would be if there had been any kind of competent Dem messaging campaign at all.

  2. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:24 am:

    So much for ‘Running the state like a business’ when it involves not having a budget and not paying the state’s bills.

  3. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:27 am:

    Just imagine what the Democrats numbers would look like if there had been any kind of competent GOVERNING over the 12 years of one party rule in Springfield and the past two with supermajority legislatures.

    Saying no to all reforms is not a messaging problem.

  4. - JS Mill - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:31 am:

    =Just imagine what the Democrats numbers would look like..=


    That is as current as a commercial for a Palm Pilot.

  5. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:34 am:

    == if there had been any kind of competent GOVERNING over the 12 years ==

    During Quinn’s last 4 years, the State was paying it’s normal bills, making the modified pension ramp payments, and had reduced the bill backlog from about $9b to under $5b.

    That’s a lot more competent governing that the last two dysfunctional years.

  6. - Peoria Citizen - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:37 am:

    To the point: Illinoisans deserve better.

  7. - @MisterJayEm - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    “Saying no to all reforms is not a messaging problem.”

    A straw man is an informal logical fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent.

    – MrJM

  8. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    What are they running on JS Mill?

    Boil it down for me, Illinois decline relative to the nation and our neighboring states since 2000 has nothing to do with the policies Democrats introduced when they had complete control of state government?

    All we need to change Illinois economy is a tax increase and no reforms?

  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:39 am:

    LP, you’ve really got that mimicking “I know you are, but what am I?” line of debate down cold. It doesn’t make any sense in this context, but I know you’re doing your best.

    I bet you you take all the milk money at Recess Debate Club competitions.

  10. - old pol - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:45 am:

    The number that matters is - $50m.

  11. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:50 am:

    ==All we need to change Illinois economy is a tax increase and no reforms?==

    Here we go again with that. If you don’t support X then you must support Y. With you it’s all or nothing.

    Tell me LP, what has the Governor done for 2 years? I’ll answer that. Nothing. And what’s your excuse (and his)? The Democrats are being mean to him. If you believe that then you are basically saying the Governor is an incapable of being the Governor.

    Stop being a victim all the time and recognize that NEITHER SIDE - NEITHER SIDE - has been in much of a mood to compromise. The one time anyone has gotten together in good faith was in the Senate and the Governor killed that. So don’t give me this stuff about the Governor wanting to compromise because the evidence (and his inability to get anything done for 2 years) says something else.

  12. - Skeptic - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    “was in the Senate” So, LP, if you try the “Because….Madigan” argument, we’ll really laugh at you.

  13. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:58 am:

    Governors govern.
    Rauner is the “governor”.
    Got problems with Illinois governance?
    Take it up with the governor, not the legislators, or the judiciary.
    ,,,and take a civics class to understand how it all works.

  14. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:01 am:

    If you don’t want to answer the question what are democrats running on just say so. Much easier to just deflect

    What is the difference between the democrats current policies and the policies that caused Governor Quinn to be the second-most-vulnerable governor in America by FiveThirtyEight, with a net job-approval rating of -24 percentage points in 2013?

    It is a serious question. You can’t beat someone with no specific new policies or any criticism of the failed ones that got us here.

  15. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    ==Much easier to just deflect==

    Says the deflector. lol. Sheesh.

    I believe it’s been acknowledged (including by Rich) that the Democrats have been lax in the specifics department. Happy?

    I’ve got a serious question. When are you (and the Governor) going to stop playing the victim? It’s getting old. Two years and absolutely nothing to show for it. Of course, your answer is the mean old Democrats aren’t letting him.

    And what about the Governor’s approval rating LP? The people aren’t any more satisfied with him than they are Madigan.

    Just once I’d like for you to acknowledge that the Governor has been just as much of a failure. Instead you’re too busy being a victim and crying because Madigan is a big meany.


  16. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    The same fitful, caustic, derogatory, exasperated complaints about the Illinois political state of affairs hasn’t changed much for two years. And most of them are valid, on both sides. So when you wonder how bad it can get, don’t underestimate. Rather, get out your map of the USA, google your requirements, and start looking for a new life elsewhere.

  17. - Earnest - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:14 am:

    >Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has not done much of anything…

    Strongly agree on the Illinois Democratic Party’s complete failure to put together a consistent and clear message to either oppose Rauner or offer a positive vision for the state. They can complain that the Governor hasn’t presented a plan to balance the state’s budget but don’t generate the pressure on him to force it.

    As of today, I would still pick Rauner to win re-election. If someone like Blagojevich can defeat someone like Topinka with strong messaging and out-spending, it’s not hard to imagine.

  18. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    Quinn and Blagojevich are so 2002.
    Check a calendar.

    The next Democratic gubernatorial candidate will 16 years removed from the past. No one is going to run that campaign again.

    Rauner promised change, and he failed. Doing nothing to let Illinois die wasn’t what anyone voted for. This was a governor who believed that disunion, bankruptsy and financial collapse was an answer. Rauner exposed himself as Kevorkian wearing a button covered leather biker vest, like one of the Village People.

    You still want to believe in Rauner’s unicorn sightings? We don’t have the luxury anymore. Rauner’s killing us all.

    Rauner is Dr. Smith on “Lost In Space”. He keeps aborting every attempt at our rescue.

  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    ===If someone like Blagojevich can defeat someone like Topinka with strong messaging and out-spending===

    He also had the huge benefit of GWB’s second midterm disaster. He tied JBT to the president in April of 2006. Her numbers never recovered.

  20. - Earnest - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:22 am:

    Good points both Rich and VM. I liked my comparison, but it is more out-of-date than I realized.

  21. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:30 am:

    What do you mean playing the victim?

    I am not afraid to engage or disagree with 90% of the commenters here.

    The polling speaks for itself. Rauner has been unable to get any reforms passed or work with the Speaker.

    You could say that Governor Quinn and Blagoevich could not work with the Speaker either.

    You could also say the Senate Democrats can’t work with the Speaker.

    See a pattern here?

    At least Governor Rauner is trying to change the balance of power away from an all powerful and ineffective Speaker instead of defending him at all costs even though he is at 61% disapproval and underwater with his own party.

  22. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:34 am:

    You know who won’t be running for governor? Michael J. Madigan. And that’s a real problem for Republicans, because Madigan may be the only politician less popular than Rauner. So all they can do is tie everybody who actually does run against the incumbent to Madigan and hope voters buy it. If they can’t transform the Dem candidate into someone less popular than their guy, they’ve got a big effen problem.

  23. - Mr. K. - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:35 am:

    Rauner has been unable to get any reforms passed or work with the Speaker.

    Right — but as I pointed out the other day — Rauner ran an expensive campaign that said, yeah, I’m the one who can *fix* things.

    The fact that he hasn’t been able do that. Hasn’t been able to *fix* anything. Hasn’t been able to work with the speaker (who, Rauner knew, was part of the deal) — frankly, says more about Rauner than Madigan — or anyone else, actually.

    If he ran a campaign to break stuff — as he’s done — then it’d be a different ballgame. We’d all of us here would be like: “Yeah! He did it! He did what he promised! That’s what business acuity brings!”

  24. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    Check you math and your calendar Vanilla Man

    “The next Democratic gubernatorial candidate will 16 years removed from the past.”

    The next Democratic gubernatorial candidate will only be 4 years removed from the Quinn administration unless you think Rauner will win 3 more terms running unopposed.

    Even I am not predicting that!

  25. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:39 am:


    You’re hopeless. You fail to recognize any role the Governor is playing here.

    == instead of defending him at all costs==

    Who is doing that? Saying that the Governor shares blame is not defending Madigan. There you go again with your “all or nothing” argument.

    ==even though he is at 61% disapproval==

    The Governor is at what? 58% or something like that. You’re “yeah, but” arguments are like the arguments of a 5th grader.

    ==At least Governor Rauner is trying==

    He isn’t trying very hard then. Two years. Nothing to show for it. But I suppose it’s ok if your only argument is that Madigan is a big meany.

    ==Rauner has been unable to get any reforms passed==

    The Senate’s bargain had some of those reforms. The Governor killed it because he didn’t get everything he wanted. He’s not interested in doing anything that doesn’t give him everything. Deny it all you want. The evidence is there.

  26. - Annonin' - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:48 am:

    Imagine what it might be like if the media (ncluding Capt fax) had paid attention to BizManBruce and his subprime bank in GA or naming and exec to a IL company convicted of the biggest fraud in the Northern Disttrict or …..

    Iamgine if there had been actual “reforms” rather than tipping the co-equal branches of government toward the executive.

    Imagine if companies now under investigation for hiding profits offshore had paid taxes or used the $$ to hire more well trained, IL

    or …..

  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:50 am:

    Over two years into his administration and after the midterms ONE branch of the legislature (not controlled by the Speaker) voted on some of the Turnaround Agenda

    You are setting the bar really low Demoralized.

    Meanwhile there is a lane a mile wide for some Democrat to agree with 61% of the population and vote the Speaker out.

    Instead we just have “Clocks” Drury all alone

  28. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:53 am:

    ===Imagine what it might be like if the media===

    Imagine if the Quinn campaign or DPI had made even a half-hearted case on those topics.

  29. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    annonin, you guys have the ways and means to get the message out.

    Why you don’t, only you can answer.

    By now, you must have noticed that for years Illinois media outlets have been cutting back drastically the resources devoted to state government .

    If you want to get your message out, you’re going to have to serve it up for them. Simple as that.

    For starters, why don’t you guys document the economic cost of Rauner reneging on contracts and bleeding higher ed: jobs lost, vendors out of business, citizens impacted.

    You guys have the resources to document that.
    What are you waiting for, and why?

  30. - don the legend - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 11:03 am:

    Whenever Lucky makes a post I can’t help but think of Baghdad Bob. “He is best known for his grandiose and grossly unrealistic propaganda broadcasts before and during the war (budget impasse), extolling the invincibility of the Iraqi Army (Raunerites) and the permanence of Saddam’s (Rauner’s)rule”

  31. - Arock - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Tell me what piece of legislation from the turn around agenda that Madigan has compromised on and sent to the Governor’s office for his signature? Ninety percent of the people on this blog think compromise is the Governor giving up on everything he campaigned on and agreeing to everything that Madigan and his Minions want which is more tax and spend.

  32. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 11:42 am:

    I can’t get that post even with a decoder ring.

    Anonnin’ instead of writing like an idiot, make your point so that we can discuss it. But maybe you don’t want that.

  33. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 11:46 am:


    The Governor killed the only compromise that was moving anywhere, and that was the Senate proposal. That was the only compromise I’ve seen in two years.

    ==think compromise is the Governor giving up on everything he campaigned on ==

    No, we don’t. What we do believe is in realism and doing what is doable.

    I’m no longer interested in anything except a budget. Pass one of those first.

  34. - OH - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 11:59 am:

    == “When is a Democrat going to run a campaign for that 61 percent?” ==

    Looks like Biss just started one.

  35. - east central - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 1:57 pm:

    If the functions of state government begin shutting down in ways that cause serious pain for the average voter, how does Rauner get reelected? I would think that enough voters would then realize that a vote for Rauner has become a vote for impasse. Voters would be led to the conclusion that electing a Democrat is the only way to break the deadlock so that the State can function again, unless you believe the Democrats will lose the legislature.

    If there is any sense to this logic, then I wonder why Rauner has not accepted the deal from the Senate.

  36. - JS Mill - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 2:50 pm:

    =What are they running on JS Mill?=

    Sounds like Biss et al are running on undoing the damage done by Rauner and the damage he continues to do.

    At least that is current and not about something that isn’t, like “one party rule”.

    Or, you could give them a call and ask, I have no ties to the Illinois Democratic Party, but people like you are starting to push me that way.

    I can’t vote Madigan out of office, I don’t live in his district.

    I live in the land of “The Party of No”. Out here in the hinter lands Republican candidates run unopposed and rarely have a primary candidate.

    All I ever hear from them is “but Madigan!” Literally for the last 16 years that is all they have had to offer.

    And Rauner’s talkin’ during the primary and regular election was different one from the next depending on the geography of his speechin’ so I really am not sure what he was/is running on other than some word salad jumble about turnin’ things around that had no real numbers attached. go on with your “but, but, but 12 years of single party rule” which ended two years ago and things are massively worse now that we have two party control.

    So go on and argue like a child.

  37. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 3:50 pm:

    Argue like child?

    How exactly is Biss going to undo the damage that caused Quinn to be the second most vulnerable Governor (even though Illinois is a solid blue state)?

    What is Biss proposing to change? He did spend 10 million dollars trying to unsuccessfully link Governor Rauner to Trump.

    I heard he wants to make Illinois safe for immigrants. Why just immigrants? How about make Illinois safe for it’s residents in crime ridden areas?

    I heard progressive tax will solve all of our problems. The fact that this could not pass during the 12 years of one party rule goes unmentioned. No mention of a constitutional amendment modifying future pension benefits.

    Not a world about increasing competitiveness for Illinois business, especially downstate.

    Does Senator Biss believe our General Assembly is functional and able to find middle ground?

    Does a legislature that because of gerrymandered districts has 60 percent of the current members run unopposed function well?

    Just answering to party bosses and not constituents has not worked out well for Illinois.

  38. - JS Mill - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 4:01 pm:

    =Not a world about increasing competitiveness I heard progressive tax will solve all of our problems.+

    You hear only what you want to hear and ignore actual realities.

    Illinois needs money to pay the bills. That would be a huge boost for business by the way.

    Nobody has ever said raising taxes is the total answer, it is just something that is obviously needed. Even Rauner says so.

    Illinois (the State) cannot cut its’ way out of $136 billion in pension debt and $12.8 billion in current bills. It actually has to pay them.

    But you know this, you just don’t want to own up to your responsibilities as a citizen.

  39. - Tone - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 4:10 pm:

    “Illinois needs money to pay the bills. That would be a huge boost for business by the way.”

    This is the lamest thing I have read in a while. Illinois is a disaster because of decades of over spending.

  40. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 4:12 pm:


    I think I’ll give Biss a few days to put out his vision. After all, the Governor has had two years and hasn’t seemed to have accomplished much.

    If what you say is true then the race should be a good one. Democrats who have no plan and a Governor who has accomplished nothing. I feel so lucky as a citizen to have such solid choices.

  41. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 4:13 pm:

    Anyone can read about the last campaign.
    That doesn’t make you a forecaster of next year’s.
    No one is dependent upon your arguments to succeed next year either.

    The candidates create the message.
    They won’t give us a rerun.

    An incumbent’s job is to show his voters how he succeeded. Rauner has got little to nothing to show.

    Quinn lost by not telling voters what he did to earn reelection. Rauner will lose for the same reason.

    It is in Rauner’s best interest to settle so that he has something to show voters that he accomplished.

    He won’t get a second chance.

    It isn’t the Democrats who have to prove their governing abilities - because they aren’t governor. It’s all on Rauner, and he has got squat.

  42. - Ron - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 4:16 pm:

    “If the functions of state government begin shutting down in ways that cause serious pain for the average voter”

    The average voter has very little use for state government.

  43. - MyTwoCents - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 5:44 pm:

    Ron, what happens if the State runs out of money for ISP cars or IEMA or IDOT can’t respond to the next time a tornado hits or the State can’t process license renewals for the countless regulated professions. I have a feeling people are impacted by State government more than they realize.

  44. - JS Mill - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 6:28 pm:

    =The average voter has very little use for state government.=

    They do when they need a Trooper, or the highway cleared, or license plates.

    The average voter needs state services more than they realize.

  45. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 7:27 pm:

    Lucky appears to be in an alternative universe.

  46. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 8:03 pm:

    –The average voter has very little use for state government.–

    Do you live state-of-nature with your donkey off-grid in a cabin in the woods?

    Education, infrastructure,

  47. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 20, 17 @ 9:20 pm:

    “Government is the enemy, until you need a friend.”

  48. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Mar 21, 17 @ 6:52 am:

    “The average voter has very little use for state government.”

    And the average homeowner has very little use for a fire department — until they do.

    – MrJM

  49. - logic not emotion - Wednesday, Mar 22, 17 @ 9:19 am:

    To use a baseball analogy…

    Everyone is lined up in far left field or far right field and no one is trying to hit it up the middle! Maddening.

    I look at those poll numbers and conclude that the biggest gap is in the center. For Democrats, that means they need to lay off the typical hard left stuff that won’t fly outside of liberal strongholds. For Republicans, that means lay off the IPI stuff that few Republicans even support.

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* One hospitalized after single car crash in Belleville
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* Competition challenges gamers to create a model Modern Woodmen Park
* Longtime state representative officially steps down

* Cowboys edge Raiders 20-17 by slimmest of margins
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* Investigation: Emanuel's Chicago Infrastructure Trust has cost taxpayers $5 million but has contributed little, and other news
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* A Black friend and a Jew lawyer.

* Illinois Awarded Funds to Offer Advanced Training on Detecting Impaired Driving
* Illinois EPA Announces Upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events
* IEMA Highlights Emergency Preparedness for People with Access and Functional Needs in May - Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers
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* Governor and Lt. Governor Unveil 2016 Journal of Local Government Shared Service Best Practices

* Bloomberg report lends further credence to Samsung Galaxy S9 February announcement
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* HQ Smashed Its All-Time Player Record Tonight as iPhone Trivia Show Continues to Surge in Popularity
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* BlackBerry nixes security support for the PRIV after two years

* Lull in Manny Machado rumors, but plates shift underneath
* Sporcle Saturday: The richest free agent deals in White Sox history
* Former White Sox players return to rep team
* White Sox news that doesn’t involve Manny Machado
* Former White Sox players return to rep team
* The cracks in the White Sox-Manny Machado rumors
* Hahn mum on any White Sox-Machado talks

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