Governor Bruce Rauner is damned. Damned if he – pathetically – tries to defend himself and damned if he attacks his Republican primary opponent’s social conservatism.
Last week, Rauner’s opponent, Rep. Jeanne Ives released what she calls an “edgy” ad that hits Gov. Rauner on the big three for social conservatives: abortion, illegal immigration, and transgender identification laws. Social media erupted over the weekend after the spot aired, with demands from Illinois GOP leaders to pull the ad down. While many have called the ad “offensive,” “racist,” “homophobic,” and “immature,” Ives told the City Club on Monday that says she stands by the ad.
Rauner joined the establishment GOP and media throng of those condemning the ad as racist and repulsive. “The video shows just how unelectable Jeanne Ives really is.”
While the Ives’ ad may be in poor taste, it makes an impact. Rauner’s reaction to the controversial ad also makes it crystal clear to the Illinois Republican Party’s conservative base: Rauner is not one of us.
Rauner’s reaction to the ad alone ensures that a core percentage of social conservatives will not only support Ives over Rauner in the March primary but reject Rauner in November.
Why is the permanent loss of this core conservative Republican vote a problem for Rauner?
In 2014, Rauner defeated the very unpopular incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn by a very small percentage: a 50.3% to 46.4% split. Quinn, saddled with Illinois’ dire economic record and a rocky relationship with organized labor, couldn’t inspire the Democrat base to turn out to vote in 2014 – he received 80,000 fewer votes in Chicago and Cook County than he did in 2010. 80,000 votes Quinn needed.
In 2014, Rauner also received 9,000 more votes in Chicago and out-polled Sen. Bill Brady, the 2010 GOP nominee for Governor, by more than 15,000 votes in the suburbs. Rauner reached his goal of receiving 20% of the vote in Chicago.
That was Rauner then, this is Rauner now.
Will Bruce Rauner, the incumbent with the sad/sorry/pitiful record of accomplishment, receive 20% of the Chicago vote in 2018, an off-year election that favors the party that is not in power? Will he receive the conservative Republican vote after signing legislation to force taxpayers to pay for abortions and help illegal immigrants avoid deportation through Illinois’ Trust Act? No and no.
Can Rauner run as an anti-tax Republican Governor after his political allies helped pass a 32% permanent income tax increase and saddling taxpayers with $16 billion in unpaid bills and $1 billion in late payment penalties?
If nothing else, Ives’ ad reminds conservative voters about who Rauner really is and it isn’t the conservative Republican he pretended to be in 2014.
Republican voters didn’t know Rauner in 2014 but they know him now and that’s the problem.