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Will Rauner ever get to be in charge?

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

“I’m not in charge,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said recently, “I’m trying to get to be in charge.”

Rauner said he’ll “get to be in charge” by taking away House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Democratic majority next year. Madigan, Rauner says, is “really” in charge of Illinois.

The Republicans need to win nine net seats. So, can Rauner really take out Madigan next year?

Keep in mind that Speaker Madigan drew the legislative district maps. Thumping him in what looks to be a big Democratic year after taking four net seats away from Madigan in 2016 will stretch the partisan possibilities of that map beyond what most would consider common sense.

Rauner does have three things going for him, however: Money, the income tax hike passed over his veto and Madigan himself. Rauner has plenty of the former, and the latter two don’t poll well for the Democrats.

The Republicans must first sweep four southern Illinois districts to have a shot, and winning them are very possible.

The only statewide Democrat to win appointed Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie’s (D-Elizabethtown) deep southern Illinois district since 2012 was Secretary of State Jesse White. She has a great family name for the area, however, and she was appointed after the income tax hike votes.

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Smithton) also has a well-known family name, voted against the tax hike, but also has a district that has been won only by White since 2012.

Freshman Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) was the sole bright spot for the House Democrats last year. She defeated a flawed Republican incumbent, Dwight Kay, who is running again against a female Republican. Stuart voted against the tax hike.

Rep. Dan Beiser’s (D-Alton) winning margins seemed to tighten every two years, which is one reason why he’s retiring. While President Trump won Beiser’s district by 16 points, Tammy Duckworth and Susana Mendoza both won, as did Dick Durbin, Lisa Madigan and Jesse White in 2014. President Obama also won it by five points in 2012. So, while it’s in play because it’s an open seat, this won’t be easy for the Republicans.

OK, so let’s say Republicans win all four of those (not a lock, but maybe). They still need five more.

Let’s start with three suburban races that have been in play before.

Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake) underperformed Hillary Clinton by 9 points and had to be dragged across the finish line in the closing days by Speaker Madigan’s top field generals. He won what was considered to be a GOP district in 2012, so the Republicans won’t ever give up. Yingling voted against the tax hike.

Retiring Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) cruised to an easy victory last year. She had some trouble in 2014, winning by five points. Rauner won that district by 16, which puts it in play in the GOP’s mind along with it being an open seat.

Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) won his last race by 19 points, but the Republicans never give up on him, either. Just three statewide Republicans have won this district since 2012 (Munger, Rauner and Judy Baar Topinka). Moylan voted against the tax hike. The anti-gun Democrat is facing a pro-gun Republican, Marilyn Smolenski.

If the Republicans somehow win all three (not likely), they’re still two seats shy of taking the chamber — if they can somehow hold onto all their own suburban seats.

Now, let’s look at possibly vulnerable Democrats who voted for the “Mike Madigan income tax hike” earlier this year.

Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) is at the top of the list. Scherer voted to override Rauner’s tax hike veto after first voting against the tax hike. Her district just barely went Democratic last year.

Rauner and Topinka are the only two Republicans who’ve won Rep. Fred Crespo’s (D-Hoffman Estates) district since 2012 (Clinton won it by 29). Add Tom Cross to that very short GOP winner list for Rep. Deb Conroy’s (D-Villa Park) district. Those same three Republicans won Rep. Stefanie Kifowit’s (D-Oswego) district. Rep. Anna Moeller’s (D-Elgin) district is also pretty solidly Democratic, outside of Rauner and Topinka wins during a strong national GOP wave.

Two pretty Democratic north suburban open seat races might possibly be in play: districts represented by retired Rep. Elaine Nekritz and attorney general candidate Rep. Scott Drury. And there may be one or two more, but I have my doubts about Rauner picking up a net nine.

So, if Rauner is re-elected next year, he probably still won’t be in charge — by his own definition.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Mouthy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:19 am:

    So J.B. will be running against Rauner who will be running against Madigan. IMO Rauner’s goose is cooked..

  2. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    ===- Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 11:05 am

    ===Reporter: So, are you saying that you envision a scenario where you get elected to a second term… and the Speaker is not the Speaker any more?

    Gov. Rauner: I think there’s a very, very high probability of that and it would be a wonderful step for the state.===

    Rauner wins, Madigan Retires - 75/1

    Rauner wins, Madigan wins, Speaker too 12/1

    Rauner wins, Madigan wins, not Speaker 20/1

    Rauner loses - 5/2===

    To the Post,

    Great insight by Rich, breaking down where the battleground(s) is/are.

    It’s critically important to be able to look at each seat, and by each seat, where Rauner could abc should make headway or win against the Democrats.

    It would not surprise me in the least if Illinois lost a a “net 1” GOP congressman, the statewides are swept by Dems… and the HGOP in Springfield gets a “net 2-3” seats.

    It’s the old argument, as Rauner showed in 2014, macro vs. micro.

    The micro in these state House seats seem poised to be inundated with the “anti-Madigan” message, a message in the micro that could flip seats.

    The macro, with the example of Mendoza-Munger, seems poised to not only want to go after the GOP, but here in Illinois, Rauner has a 55% disapproval and a “I’m not in charge” mantra as the reason to give him a second term.

    If you’re not in charge, how can you actually accomplish anything?

    Did anyone think on that?

    So far 55% of people polled don’t approve of the passenger named Rauner.

    So, thanks Rich. Thanks for setting a table of discussion in the micro, which IS going to be so different than the macro, and the macro idea that “Madigan” is the best overall… Comptroller Mendoza didn’t just beat Munger, she was the proxy that beat both the “Madigan” mantra, and the Rauner belief that “Madigan” could be enough to carry someone with that message.

    I can see state House seats flip to the GOP. To get 9, that’s a lot of micro managing in this wave of GOP discontent.

  3. - Roman - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    If the results in Virginia are predictive, the House Repubs are going to have their hands full defending seats in several suburban districts that Hillary won. That’s gonna suck up a lot of resources — both money and experienced campaign staff.

  4. - Langhorne - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:35 am:

    rauner is unable to work to make progress within the limitations of his circumstances, but he IS the guy in charge.
    (Quincy should make that clear)
    He has adopted the mantra of IANIC, to shift blame to madigan. He has to sell the idea we are “this close” to getting
    rid of madigan, to justify a second term.

    Rauner supporters are like trump supporters in this respect–they adamantly believe the narrative, regardless of facts.

  5. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:43 am:

    ==If the results in Virginia are predictive,===

    Which they most likely are not… Virginia is on an opposite trajectory than Illinois, with population exploding in the Northern part of the state in Suburban DC. The state has been moving more and more D over the past decade.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    ===Which they most likely are not…The state has been moving more and more D over the past decade.===


    Statewide, if we’re comparing that, Illinois statewide in 2016 had two GOP statewide offices flip to Dem.

    Right now, both US Senators, and 4 of the 6 (Note: Slip and Sue runs in tandem with Rauner) Illinois statewide offices are now held by Dems.

    So, what are you say… exactly?

  7. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    Um, guy, didn’t you notice the Chi suburbs are moving Democratic, too?

    Surprising, considering how you walk that world’s biggest precinct every day.

  8. - SmartiePants - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:13 am:

    Politics are local.

    JB will be paired with Blago/Madigan.

    Rauner will be tied to Trump.

    We shall see who is least unpopular in 11 months.

  9. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    ==Um, guy, didn’t you notice the Chi suburbs are moving Democratic, too?==

    In fact I have. And the seriously masterful map helped that considerably. With population shifts, that will be harder to accomplish. In Virginia, their State Assembly grew significantly more D even in the rural areas.

    The point I was attempting to make is that our rural areas have become nearly completely R. The nearer suburbs need some very careful attention. Rauner did well in many of those districts the last time.

    Sling, are you making the assertion (as well) that Virginia is predictive of Illinois?

  10. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    === Rauner did well in many of those districts the last time. ===

    Rauner did do well in many Democratic-leaning and split suburban districts because they were willing to give him a chance to “shake up Springfield.” Now that they have seen he didn’t shake up anything and got nothing accomplished, those same voters are unlikely to stick with Rauner like they did in 2014.

  11. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    JO, that’s likely more predictive than the results in Virginia…

  12. - Nacho - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    Illinois may not be Virginia, but both are states where Trump actually underperformed Romney. Comparing Gillespie’s 2014 Senate run to his 2017 gubernatorial run, the Republican actually did better in 2017 in many rural areas, particularly in Southwest Virginia. But he got absolutely crushed in suburban areas. He actually won Loudoun County in 2014. In 2017 he lost it by 20 points. Rauner’s going to have to thread the needle that Gillespie tried and failed to in Virginia: motivate rural Trump voters to come out without alienating anti-Trump suburban voters.

    What should be really concerning to Republicans about the Virginia results are the ways in which it has been similar to other 2017 elections. They’re losing further ground among educated voters, left-leaning demographic groups are turning out in bigger numbers, etc. To the extent that these patterns have been repeated across elections, they should absolutely be regarded as predictive of what will happen in 2018.

  13. - Molly Maguire - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:33 am:

    Last Line: “oh snap”

  14. - Pundent - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    In the Chicago area there used to a divide between the city and surrounding suburbs between D’s and R’s. But the suburbs have always leaned to the moderate R side. The sweet spot in the collar counties was to present yourself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. These days the moderates are being pushed away by the Republican party and labeled as RINO’s. And to the extent the trend continues the Democrats will be the beneficiary.

    Downstate tends to be more reflective of today’s Republican party on a national basis. And it’s in this environment that Rauner will sign off on HB40 while simultaneously telling downstate voters that he’s a big supporter of pro-life candidates.

  15. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 12:04 pm:

    We’ll see Nach. All those big, weird off years, VA, NJ, and this year…GA, Alabama, etc. have crazy personalities of their own. Sometimes the bode messages, other times they don’t.

    African American voters make a big difference in a few of those places, VA, and AL for sure. Their motivation in Illinois is not fever pitched like it was in a couple of those states.

    Illinois on Statewide races is influenced very heavily by it’s largest city, and often the County of that city. The dynamics elsewhere in the state can and at times is counteracted by that.

    To me, this is among the most unpredictable cycles we’ll see in some time, maybe ever. There are so many X factors, it’s impossible to score many races. The GOP has a crack at keeping the mansion, and winning the AG seat. Everything else looks quite out of reach on the statewide level.

    I think the GOP will pick up seats in the GA. In many of the “right” places for them, the Speaker is less popular than the Gov. Grabbing 9 seats; that’s a very, very heavy lift. Not impossible, but leaning on it. But I do believe they’ll pick up seats.

  16. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    First off - only nerds try to read a past Virginia election like it means anything for Illinois. Doing this is like forecasting our weather based upon tempuratures in Richmond.

    Rauner is in charge.
    Has been since 2015.
    He doesn’t want to be seen in charge because he has been an ineffectual, unmitigated disaster. In 2014 he made a lot of promises. Now, we see that he failed to accomplish those promises. So he’s telling us that he is not responsible for being the failure he obviously is.

    Rauner is the worst Republican governor in America. The worst governor we’ve had.

  17. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 1:42 pm:

    “First off - only nerds try to read a past Virginia election like it means anything for Illinois.”

    I literally laughed out loud.

    – MrJM

  18. - Generic Drone - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 2:37 pm:


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