* Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball…
To the east, the Illinois gubernatorial contest appears increasingly uncompetitive. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) began the 2018 cycle as the most endangered incumbent Republican in the country and his position has really only worsened since then. Rauner only narrowly won renomination in the March primary against state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R), indicating the GOP base’s frustration with the incumbent.
Following the primary, the Crystal Ball shifted its rating in Illinois from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. Since the primary, every general election poll has found billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker (D) comfortably ahead of Rauner.
While Rauner has a great deal of personal wealth, Pritzker’s bank account has an extra zero in it, and the Democratic nominee outspent Rauner $20.1 million to $7.8 million in the second quarter of 2018. What’s more, because many Republicans are displeased with Rauner, political space has opened for the third-party bid by state Sen. Sam McCann (R). As the Conservative Party nominee, the state senator is running to the right of Rauner on fiscal and social issues, though McCann has a pro-union record. McCann seems likely to peel at least a few Republican votes away from the incumbent, making Rauner’s reelection path even more difficult.
The Crystal Ball typically gives incumbents the benefit of the doubt, but there has been no good news for Rauner in 2018. The Land of Lincoln contest is now rated as Likely Democratic.
With the three ratings changes in Arizona, Illinois, and Iowa, the Crystal Ball now rates nine gubernatorial races as Toss-ups, with 18 others favoring Republicans to some degree and nine more favoring Democrats to some extent. We now view Illinois as the likeliest party flip among the 36 gubernatorial contests in 2018.
“Bruce Rauner needed a turnaround this summer, but the most vulnerable incumbent is finding he cannot escape his three years of failed leadership,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “With no positive record to run on, Rauner has been reduced to running desperate negative ads and cozying up to Donald Trump.”