Running on a weak record with few to no accomplishments during his four-year term, it is no wonder Governor Bruce Rauner doesn’t want to debate his Republican primary challenger Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton). Rauner wants the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement so he showed up to the paper’s editorial board meeting Monday and faced Ives for the first time. No other debates between the two candidates are scheduled.

So Monday’s editorial board meeting – streamed on the internet – was a debate by default and it didn’t help Rauner. He’s lucky it wasn’t televised.

Rauner struggled to explain why voters should give him a second term. With Ives, a social conservative with hardline views on abortion, he struggled even harder to explain why conservative voters should support him in the GOP primary or, if he eeks out a primary win, in November.

With no fiscal record of accomplishment, what does Rauner have to campaign on? His support for SB 31, the Trust Act, or HB 40, for taxpayer-funded abortions? Why would any conservative voter support Rauner?

What is Rauner’s pitch to voters exactly? Re-elect me, Bruce Rauner, because if you don’t JB Pritzker will be elected and he is a rubber stamp for House Speaker Mike Madigan. Pritzker will likely sign a new legislative map drawn to continue to favor Democrats, and such a result would be “turn out the lights in the state of Illinois.”

That’s Rauner’s pitch?

The real problem with Rauner’s pitch is that, after four years, he hasn’t shown that he can go head-to-head with Madigan. In fact, Madigan has walked all over him. Rauner promised to “shake up Springfield” and, instead, has been outplayed, outwitted, and outmaneuvered by the shrewd Illinois House Speaker at every turn.

During the Tribune editorial board meeting, Rauner and Ives disagreed sharply on how to deal with Madigan and Rauner didn’t deviate from his talking points…”Because, Madigan.”

Building a relationship with a crook who’s out to make money and become rich from his power, that won’t work,” Rauner said of Madigan.

“OK,” Ives responded. “So now we’re going to call Mike Madigan a crook …”

“He is,” Rauner interrupted.

Ives noted that Madigan “actually voted for my bills before, so I take that as a positive note.”

“He’s picking on Mike Madigan again and it’s because he said he’s not in charge. Gov. Rauner said he’s not in charge and he’s acted like he’s not in charge. And so this is the result. Nothing gets done,” Ives said.

It’s true: Rauner blames Madigan for his lack of accomplishments as Governor. Who’s in charge? Rauner says Madigan is in charge, not him.

During the two-year budget impasse, Illinois racked up a record $16 billion in unpaid bills with billions in extra interest payments. Who was in charge? Was Madigan in charge or Rauner? Rauner would say Madigan was in charge.

In the end, Rauner’s two-year budget impasse made Illinois’ fiscal situation worse. Rauner-controlled Republican legislators voted to override the Governor’s veto of the 32% income tax hike last July.

A month earlier, the Wall Street Journal predicted Rauner would roll-over on tax increases:

Bruce Rauner spent a chunk of his personal fortune running for Governor in 2014 to save Illinois from its tax-and-spend political class. More than two years later it looks like the former private equity star has made better investments.

On Tuesday evening the Governor with the worst job in America explained why he and his fellow Republicans have offered to raise taxes for the sake of ending a multiyear budget impasse with Democrats. He said he’ll accept a four-year increase in the flat state income tax to 4.95% from the current 3.75%, expand the sales tax and implement a cable and satellite TV tax.

This is a political defeat by any definition since Mr. Rauner campaigned on lowering the income tax to 3%, not on restoring the rate close to what it was under the last Democratic Governor. The “temporary” 5% rate partially sunset in December 2014. Democrats who run the legislature refused to negotiate over a budget unless Mr. Rauner agreed to a tax increase, and now they’re refusing to make notable spending or economic reforms in return. […]

The Governor’s capitulation may have been triggered by the latest downgrade by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s in the state bond rating to near junk status, with a warning that another downgrade could come this summer. Mr. Rauner doesn’t want to run for re-election next year as Governor Junk.

On social and fiscal issues, Rauner has already proven he’s not a conservative and that’s why Rep. Ives attacked his record with voters at Monday’s editorial board meeting.

He hasn’t proven he’s a Republican either and that’s a problem for Rauner in the Republican primary on March 20.

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