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All heat, no light

Monday, Sep 24, 2018

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The first gubernatorial debate of the 2018 general election was almost all heat and no light. Instead of talking about where they want to take the state, the candidates focused mainly on delivering rehearsed zingers at other people in the race.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Sen. Sam McCann, the Conservative Party candidate, crafted some of the better put-downs, so they dominated the news coverage. News coverage always follows conflict, and that debate was definitely chock full of conflict.

Rauner is convinced that J.B. Pritzker is a tool of the machine and that the machine is out to get him. The machine is most definitely out to get him, but he came off as undignified and angry. Maybe I’m just way out of touch, but I’d like to see a grownup as governor. Instead, it was one nasty wisecrack after another from Rauner. Every word seemed to be drenched in bile.

Sen. McCann, who Rauner rightly noted was, um, helped into the race by allies of House Speaker Michael Madigan to draw conservative and Downstate votes away from the incumbent, interrupted both Rauner and Democratic nominee Pritzker time and again to deliver putdowns and what was supposed to pass for homespun wisdom.

McCann talked about how he’d watched TV news in his Chicago hotel room the night before and was shocked at the coverage of all the crime – as if this was his first visit to the state’s largest city. I frankly can’t tell if the man is even running a campaign. If he’s making speeches out on the hustings, there’s been practically no coverage. He appears to have one job and only one job and he did that job at the debate.

Pritzker also stuck closely to his script and dodged and weaved around legitimate questions about his disconnected toilets in his unused mansion that got him a property tax break, and what he wants to do about graduated income tax rates.

Pritzker faithfully stayed on his campaign’s game plan of making sure everyone in Illinois knows that Rauner is a liar and a failure. Calling Rauner a liar is a clever way of deflecting Rauner’s claims about Pritzker: You can’t believe Rauner’s attacks because he’s a liar. And, hey, it’s not like Pritzker’s all wrong. Rauner even lied about his own grandfather, claiming he was born in Sweden when he was actually born in Wisconsin. And the governor kept telling that lie after he was publicly called out on it. Every single thing he says has to be fact-checked, starting with whether or not he spoke on the phone with House Speaker Michael Madigan on election night four years ago (he said he did, but he didn’t).

Libertarian Kash Jackson was the least offensive, but to say he has no chance would be insulting the concept of chance.

Anyway, while the debate should’ve been about Illinois, it was all about the candidates. I don’t care if they think their opponents are the worst people in the world. I get the politics of it, but I still don’t care. Rauner is so unpopular that he has to bring Pritzker down to his level. Pritzker isn’t beloved, so he has to keep his boot on Rauner’s political throat. McCann’s job is to attack Rauner from his right flank.

They all say this campaign is about the “character” of their opponents. Fine. It’s their money (literally, in the case of Rauner and Pritzker). But the moderator of the next debate needs to make sure we don’t again get the equivalent of a professional wrestling match. Also, how about talking about your own character, gentlemen?

As to who “won,” I would say nobody lost. You could say that nobody losing means the governor actually lost because he’s so far behind in the polls. But this isn’t like a presidential debate, where half the country tunes in. It was on one TV channel in one part of the state, not all of them everywhere. Most people will either get their information from post-debate news coverage or social media or they won’t get any information at all.

The big impact will be advertising. We’ll have to see if the campaigns can pull any particularly damaging clips from the debate to use in TV ads, as the Rauner campaign did with Jeanne Ives in the primary. Most people thought she won the Tribune editorial board debate, but she ended up being the big loser because her soft words about Speaker Madigan were used by Rauner to great effect.

* Zorn

“Is there anything that you admire about Mr. Pritzker? An action or achievement? Is there anything you think he’s done that you think is worthy of praise?” […]

Rauner didn’t hesitate when he whiffed at the question.

“I’ve been very clear that I believe (Pritzker) is lacking in integrity, in ethics and in character,” he said, launching a 90-second, entirely negative talking-points tirade accusing Pritzker of being an unpatriotic tax cheat and self-dealer. “It’s appalling.” […]

Try making it rational. The lot of you. Look forward. Tell us why, if we vote for you, the next four years will look different from the last four years. Be specific. What will your budget priorities be? How will you balance revenue and spending without the fairy dust of ideological fantasies?

* Related…

* Follow the money: Republican state Sen. Sam McCann, the Conservative Party candidate for governor, got $125,500 last week from the Fight Back Fund, an operation of the Operating Engineers International Union Local 150.

* Finke: Lots of sound, not much light in governor debate

* Editorial: Cut debate field to two

- Posted by Rich Miller        

18 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:26 am:

    Bruce, anything good to say about JB?

    ===“I’ve been very clear that I believe (Pritzker) is lacking in integrity, in ethics and in character,” he said, launching a 90-second, entirely negative talking-points tirade accusing Pritzker of being an unpatriotic tax cheat and self-dealer. “It’s appalling.”

    Diana Rauner, after the Pritzker family bailed out The Ounce… after Bruce refused to pay $7 million to The Ounce… after Diana turned to the Pritzkers… Diana Rauner, do you agree with Bruce?

    ===”More than three decades of experience have led us to identify some big bets that have the potential to transform early learning. We are so grateful to the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation for sharing our belief in these innovations,” said Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. “By developing strong leaders and programs, empowering parents and strengthening early learning systems, together we can change lives for children and families.”===

    Guess that’s a “no”… Diana.

    What a horrible person Bruce is… after the Pritzkers bailed out The Ounce and Diana.


  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:28 am:

    That Rauner reset got abandoned pretty quickly. Don’t really see the point of it now.


  3. - Illinois Resident - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:30 am:

    The bottom line for me is policy. Pritzker’s stated policies of progressive income tax, legal cannabis, health care for all in some form, they help people.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:38 am:

    ===That Rauner reset got abandoned pretty quickly. Don’t really see the point of it now.===

    There’s only so much Hud and Anne can do.

    Diana needs her brand, the emails and worry about messaging over the death of vets made that quite clear.

    The reset now is “some of the people all the time”… as polling probably showed Rauner is still terribly unlikable.

    To the debate,

    The angry Bruce, the incumbent Bruce, the unpopular Bruce played into a caricature of this angry, “not in charge”, failure, when the goal shoulda been to connect with voters in a likable way.

    By engaging with McCann, by berating Pritzker, that losing path leads to a 17 point trailing and less than one in four (24%) approving of Gov. Rauner.

    It’s an imploding campaign, no real direction but to save face for Bruce and Diana Rauner… and hoping people forget the real damage Bruce and Diana Rauner gleefully did…

    … hadn’t seen Bruce this happy in 20 years…

    … as the Pritzker family bailed out Diana Rauner’s The Ounce.

    Wasted debate for Rauner.


  5. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:39 am:

    Sucking more even more tax revenue out of Illinois residents and businesses helps people to decide to leave Illinois.


  6. - Retired Educator - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:40 am:

    Governor Rauner; Tell me what you have accomplished, and what will be better over the next four years. The other guy is worse, is not a reason to vote for you. Give me specifics or go back to your former business.


  7. - Roman - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:40 am:

    == That Rauner reset got abandoned pretty quickly. ==

    Yep. The “reset” is fake Bruce. The post debate character assassination is the real Bruce.


  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:43 am:

    Governor Rauner; Tell me what you have accomplished, and what will be better over the next four years. The other guy is worse, is not a reason to vote for you. Give me specifics or go back to your former business.

    Retired Educator, I believe he never left his former business of destroying businesses/government while still making money for himself.


  9. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:48 am:

    I was relieved Pritzker didn’t let Rauner just pound him, after reading that Pritzker might be soft. I was glad Pritzker hit him back hard. Rauner slurs people. Madigan and the DPI are all but nonexistent in answering and delivering attacks and messaging.


  10. - City Zen - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:48 am:

    “to say he has no chance would be insulting the concept of chance”

    Great line. I have to remember that one for future reference.


  11. - DuPage Bard - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:52 am:

    If this is what the debates were going to be why would Rauner ask for 12?
    Did he really think doing 11 more of these things would be a good idea?
    If his performance was in the mode of contrition and I’ve got better ideas maybe but to just do this 11 more times so you can ramble about how bad JB is doesn’t make sense.


  12. - Annonin' - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 9:58 am:

    Yikes. Even CN-G columnist Tom Kacich — a generally loyal GovJunk supporter — seems to be bailin’…
    “It’s been 82 years since a Democratic candidate for governor won in Champaign County.

    It’s been almost as long — 70 years — since a Democratic gubernatorial candidate even came close.

    But it’s also been a long time since a Republican candidate for governor has been as unpopular as Gov. Bruce Rauner. That’s why it’s possible that Democrat J.B. Pritzker could do something that hasn’t been done since 1936, when Democratic Gov. Henry Horner won a second term. He had a 1,449-vote victory margin in Champaign County.”


  13. - Honeybadger - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 10:05 am:

    Anonymous at 9:43am was me.


  14. - The Fake Dick Mell - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 11:19 am:

    =I’ve been very clear that I believe (Pritzker) is lacking in integrity, in ethics and in character=

    Project much Governor? Isn’t it the current administration who reengaged a felon for a questionable lease deal and an IL EPA malefactor from the RRB administration?


  15. - PublicServant - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    Grandson, that is exactly what I thought, and I’m glad Pritzker didn’t let Bruce get away with taking the low road. Rauner’s whole campaign is about lying about Pritzker. JB cannot just be expected to ignore that. Rauner is disliked, and attempting to drag JB down there to his level of unlikeability. JB responded as anyone should when their character is under attack. If a debate could be set up to discuss policy, and disallow character attacks, then maybe we’d learn something. To me, however, the debates are essentially meaningless. Been there and seen that. Rauner’s done and JB, at least has a general outline, if not fully fleshing out his plan. And why should he, when his primary opponent is just going to take sentence snippits and use them against him in a TV spot.

    On November 5th, JB has my vote, and Rauner can take a hike… to Italy, or anywhere else he’d like to continue to spread his bile.


  16. - dbk - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 1:05 pm:

    Did anybody catch all/parts of Beto O’Rourke’s first debate with Ted Cruz?

    I watched several “highlights” and they got me thinking, Why can’t Illinois have nice things, for example politicians like Beto O’Rourke? And he’s so literate and eloquent!

    The Illinois gubernatorial debate, ugh. I want debates to be about Illinois, too, and policy and people, and I want a gubernatorial candidate to inspire me to believe again in my own state and its potential.

    Why can’t we have an inspiring gubernatorial candidate every so often?


  17. - Stumpy's bunker - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 3:15 pm:

    The content of the vitriolic snarlings Rauner directed to Sam McCann is a good indication that McCann is in for the “Ives treatment”….a gamble that, in this version, people will actually believe there’s collusion between the head of the Illinois Democratic Party and one of the people who could be instrumental in the post-inaugural reconstruction of the Illinois Republican Party.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 5:10 pm:

    Rich,

    Great read, your insight and take… knowledge dropping everywhere. Thanks.

    To the Post,

    ===Maybe I’m just way out of touch, but I’d like to see a grownup as governor.===

    This. Wow. This.

    If we, voters, were to look at the policies and agendas, and remove the rhetoric all sides want to define the messaging, we’d get, us voters, a real crisp understanding where each stand on governing… as adults.

    Like Rich, I fully understand the purity of the political plays here, all sides too. Heck, I’ve encouraged, cajoled, recommended, even felt the need to give examples… that’s on me, and I own that, but we’re 6 weeks out, it’s time for policy wonks to shine in debates, and let these candidates show themselves as adults willing to lead the 6th largest state in America.

    “Show me somethin’“ was the ask of Buck Weaver to Chick Gandil…

    Show me something… I know the politics, now show me the policy.


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* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Tribune asked 16 mayoral candidates to release tax returns, 6 complied
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* *** UPDATED x3 - Morrison wants emergency meeting of ILGOP - McConnaughay explains - Schneider responds *** Rauner says he tried to drop out of race after primary
* Feds re-raid Ald. Burke's office
* *** LIVE COVERAGE ***
* Yesterday's stories

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