Will Trump pardon Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich?
The conservative National Review rated Bruce Rauner the worst Republican Governor in America. In the latest poll, billionaire JB Pritzker has a 16-point lead over the Republican incumbent. In April, Rauner was polling at 26% approval and 60% disapproval. While still claiming fiscal conservative credentials, he recently signed the Democrat’s $38.5 billion spending plan, a plan that requires last year’s 32% tax increase (the one he bitched about) to balance.
How can Rauner possibly still win?
Rauner’s losing battle could be lost
Last September, Rauner began airing ads featuring phone calls between Blagojevich and JB Pritzker secretly caught on FBI wiretap. Rauner has been running portions of the phone calls with multi-million dollar ad buys since.
One of the calls involves Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate. In 2008, a month before his arrest, Blagojevich spoke to Pritzker and other politicians about the open Obama senate seat. Pritzker was not interested in the senate opening but mentioned he might be interested in becoming state treasurer. After that phone call, Pritzker was interviewed by the FBI but was never accused of any wrongdoing.
Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years on public corruption charges for attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat. He’s been in federal prison since March 15, 2012.
Rauner is/was banking on this strategy to win re-election and tying Pritzker to this evil, imprisoned, disgraced former Illinois Governor.
Enter President Donald J. Trump, who has said he is considering giving Blagojevich a pardon. His sentence was too harsh, Trump says. Many politicians have said and done far worse.
If Blagojevich gives a commutation of his sentence, he will be released from prison and ready, willing and able to wreak havoc on the Illinois Governor’s race. How will this play with Trump supporters in Illinois? Will they view Blagojevich with sympathy? How will Rauner’s anti-Blagojevich ads play downstate, where Trump won almost every southern Illinois county?
Feeble election strategy
A Trump pardon of Blagojevich puts Rauner’s (feeble) re-election strategy in a tailspin and that’s a problem for Rauner, a vocal opponent of President Trump. He snubbed Trump when he visited Chicago in 2016. He didn’t endorse Trump for President. Rauner also skipped the President’s inauguration and boycotted Trump’s dinner with 46 U.S. governors at the White House in 2017.
Even if Rauner pleaded his case to President Trump directly, would it fall on deaf ears? If Donald Trump is known for one thing it’s this: his memory. He remembers the slights. He knows his friends and punishes his enemies.
This week, seven Republican congressmen, surely acting as Rauner surrogates, sent a letter to Trump urging him not to commute Blagojevich’s sentence. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap), another Trump critic, was among them.
Trump could stick it to Rauner with a Blagojevich pardon. The Illinois political establishment was never a fan of Rod Blagojevich. A pardon would be a “fu” to them too.