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Rauner loves going over reporters’ heads, and he did it again

Monday, Jun 26, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Gov. Bruce Rauner regularly attempts to “go over the heads” of the news media and talk directly to the public without any journalistic filters.

Usually for people in his particular position, that’s just not possible. Governors aren’t presidents, after all.

They can’t deliver Oval Office addresses that are carried live by television networks or give stump speeches that cable news networks regularly broadcast. They don’t have millions of Twitter followers or Facebook video watchers.

But that hasn’t stopped Rauner from trying. It’s what his prolific television advertising is really about. He has spent millions even in non-election years attempting to frame his issues his own way without any filters — mainly to avoid taking any blame for his state grinding to a halt without a budget and to shift all blame to House Speaker Michael Madigan and the Democrats instead.

Aside from those ads, most of his Facebook videos have fewer than 10,000 or so views, a tiny fraction of Illinois’ population. He only has about 20,000 Twitter followers, which is fewer than I have.

So, last week’s Old State Capitol speech about the need for “unity” was a true rarity. Rauner’s 3-minute, 15-second address was carried live by several television stations, including the one with the largest news audience in the Chicago region, Channel 7.

He didn’t break much ground with what he said.

What was new was the platform he used. Because he inserted himself into TV news broadcasts, tons of people got a chance to hear him speak live on the topic of his choosing for the very first time without interruption — which has simply never happened before in this state.

The extreme drama of more than two years with no budget, a state teetering on fiscal collapse and a crucial special legislative session starting the following day was just too juicy to resist for the stations. Toss in the location of the Old State Capitol, which was used by both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama for major speeches and the setup was nearly perfect.

The governor used lots of buzz words like “compromise,” “bipartisan” and “unity.” He got in his pitches for a property tax freeze, school funding and term limits, all hugely popular out there in Voter Land.

Not once did he utter the phrase “tax increase,” even though he supports a plan to increase the income tax rate by about a third. And he called the impasse “unnecessary” even though the Statehouse war was basically his idea from the get-go.

It was all too much for the Democrats, who mostly reacted harshly.

Chris Kennedy labeled it as “a few minutes of empty remarks in an empty room.”

Sen. Daniel Biss called it “the worst infomercial in our state’s fiscal history.”

JB Pritzker said: “Rauner has decided he wants to make people think that he’d like to work together to get something done.”

Ameya Pawar called Rauner a “liar, a fraud and a flake.”

And the House Democrats’ official response accused the governor of “talking out of both sides of his mouth.”

To the people who watched the speech, that reaction may have been seen as an overreaction, if they even bothered to look up the react. Rauner’s specialty is winning the news cycle, and he most certainly won the week with that little address of his.

Rauner’s speech wasn’t about getting a budget deal. It was about portraying himself as the good guy and the person who is not to blame and then letting the other side take its nastiest shots to prove how they’re not so good.

“Why are they picking on this man who only wants bipartisan unity?” would be the preferred message received.

On the other hand, Rauner was poorly lit, his face and head were distractingly shiny, the empty room had lousy acoustics and he had what appeared to be a cold sore on his upper lip.

Television is all about the visuals, which is why the best way to effectively rate a TV ad is to turn off the sound. People see way more than they hear.

What they probably heard last week were the poll-tested, tried-and-true buzz words.

What they saw may not have been so great.

Still, the fact that Rauner pulled it off is quite an accomplishment.

I used to tell Rod Blagojevich to stop trying to go over our heads and learn to deal with the news media’s filter.

Rauner figured out how to do what Blagojevich never could.


  1. - Roman - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:07 am:

    The Rauner folks are the most skilled modern communications technicians to ever occupy the governor’s office. They’ve taken full advantage of Rauner’s messaging discipline and the state’s pliant press corps.

    The are absolutely awful at just about everything else.

  2. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:10 am:

    That wasn’t a cold sore. According to Rauner, it was a Happy Bump😊”.

  3. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:17 am:

    Maybe the truth about the states pliant press corps (is it fear, laziness, incompetence?) boosts greatly the comment about the most skilled communication technicians - also the opposition party isn’t very savvy or persuasive. It’s easier to be King of the Hill when there’s nobody capable of climbing from the bottom.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:20 am:

    ===The Rauner folks are the most skilled modern communications technicians to ever occupy the governor’s office. They’ve taken full advantage of Rauner’s messaging discipline and the state’s pliant press corps===

    This is about 30% true.

    The Rauner Comm Shop uses continued, tired, sometimes confusing Rauner Word Jumble phrases and explanations that at times have nothing to do with anything asked or on the subject.

    It’s one thing to be “disciplined”, it’s another to be a “one trick pony” lacking a great deal of diversity of thought.

    About 70% is that Rauner’s Comm Shop, thru millions in political ads as a buffet, swamps what counter message comes out (if there is EVEN a counter message at times) and that Dems flat out refuse to engage in messaging / counter messaging with Rauner.

    If anything, it’s like High Schoolers playing basketball against 8th graders.

    The high schoolers could very well get schooled against collegiate and pro players, but if they only play against 8th graders, it’s tough to gauge how good they are.

    It like winning by default at times for Rauner’s Comm Shop and the ILGOP… “Who are they up against”?

    Now, on the speech and Rich’s really great column abc take in it…

  5. - hisgirlfriday - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:20 am:

    If voters are supposed to be picking up the message that Rauner only wants bipartisan unity then someone needs to tell Citizens for Rauner Inc. which ran at least one TV ad I saw this weekend bashing Madigan as 100% at fault in the budget impasse and as wanting a tax increase.

    Rauner’s messaging is so schizo I am wondering what it is accomplishing.

  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:21 am:

    A strategy born of necessity. The guy can’t think on his feet and slides into the ditch if he’s nudged off his rehearsed talking points.

    Thompson and Edgar would answer questions all day long, from anyone. But they were much more knowledgeable, confident and honest about what they were talking about.

    Roman, I’m not seeing the skilled technicians in that Old State Cap weirdness. The video posted on the campaign website was mesmerizing: two full minutes of Rauner standing silently alone in a dark corner, rocking back and forth.

    It was like an outtake from Rainman.

  7. - Rabid - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:34 am:

    The people who went along with this reelection stunt, should be made to give equal time, he declared reelection last year

  8. - Henry Francis - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    ===It was like an outtake from Rainman.===

    I got more of a Boo Radley sort of vibe from the Guv lurking in the dark corner. It portrayed him as a guy who is misunderstood as the boogeyman, but in reality he is the hero saving the day.

  9. - Anon221 - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    I’m still befuddles as to why Team Rauner kept those two “lurking” minutes in online. Don’t they know how to edit??? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it stay up forever, but if I were a “Superstar” I would clean that up. It ain’t flattering.

  10. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    Rauner’s “Unity Speech” was shorter than my Taco Bell order. Since TB drive up window stays open until 2AM, I could have pulled off the creepy theatrics as well, especially if I used my little girl’s purple Tinkerbell nightlight.

  11. - Deft Wing - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 11:48 am:

    Why wouldn’t he do so? It’s the smart thing to do, especially given the media’s status with the public these days.

  12. - Anon4141 - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 12:11 pm:

    Glad someone is standing up for what the majority of this state’s citizens want, lower taxes, less democratic corruption, and more jobs…Rauner will continue to get my support, glad he is not capitulating to the madness that got us in this mess in the first place!

  13. - Mama - Monday, Jun 26, 17 @ 1:38 pm:

    “JB Pritzker said: “Rauner has decided he wants to make people think that he’d like to work together to get something done.”

    “Ameya Pawar called Rauner a “liar, a fraud and a flake.””

    I have to agree with JB Pritzker & Ameya Pawar.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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