Election ‘environment’ portends GOP losses
by RUSS STEWART
Instead of having to plow through 1,500 words to ascertain this columnist’s Nov. 8 predictions, here is the list, in the first paragraph: Hillary Clinton, Tammy Duckworth, Susana Mendoza, Brad Schneider, a Democratic U.S. Senate majority, a narrow Republican U.S. House majority, Mike Madigan and a 68-50 House majority, Laura Murphy, a Cook County Democratic tsunami, and, in an oddity, Republican state Representative Mike McAuliffe.
The biggest loser will be Bruce Rauner, and the biggest winner will be the status quo. On Nov. 9 the nationwide and Illinois political environment will be barely different from Nov. 8.
Environment. In real estate, success in selling famously is determined by location, location, location. In politics, success in winning is determined by environment, environment, environment. The end of the 2016 election campaign is decidedly un-Trump, non-Trump and anti-Trump. Being a Democrat in a Democratic-friendly nation, state or district, is the ticket to victory.
That was not always so. The campaign, which began in mid-2015, shaped up as an anti-status quo year. It is ending as a status quo year. There is so much wrong in America and with America — the economy, the political system, the criminal justice system, wealth allocation, the health care system, the education system and the country’s foreign policy. Should not the Obama-Clinton Administration be held accountable? It’s not.
It’s all just sound and fury. Up until the 1990s the country was divided between the haves and the have nots. Now it’s schismed between (1) the won’t haves, essentially the Millennial generation, which has maximum debt and minimal job opportunities and which views income redistribution as the solution; (2) the entitlement class, which includes retirees and all those who receive some income from some government source; (3) the keep what I haves, primarily the working class, struggling to pay their bills and affected the most by crime, property taxes and neighborhood change; (4) the haves, those families earning more than $100,000, spending more than they make, worth maybe $1 million, and worried about the future; and (5) the wealthy, the infamous top 1 percent, whose net worth is $10 million and up.
Of those demographic sectors, only two in 2016 sought to upset the status quo, the Millennials, who embraced Bernie Sanders’ socialism, and the working class, who embraced Donald Trump’s anti-elitist populism. Each was sending the message no more Clintonism, Obamaism, Bushism, elitism, insiderism and favoritism. Yet, on Nov. 8, all of those "isms" will triumph.
President. Lots of money can’t elect a flawed candidate, but it can elect a candidate who is the least flawed. Clinton’s campaign will have raised $1 billion through election day. Anyone with a brain knows that that kind of money is not donated without strings attached. Every special interest that prospered during the Clinton Administration (1993 to 2000) and the Obama Administration (2009 to 2016) will do likewise under Clinton. It will be pay to play part three.
Hindsight is wonderful. Clinton got roughly 55 percent of the vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries, while Trump got roughly 40 percent of the Republican vote. So, after the primaries, where do the anti-Clinton and anti-Trump voters go?
Had Clinton faced Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie or maybe even Ted Cruz, the election would have been a referendum on Clinton. Now it’s a referendum on Trump, whose personal character and issue stances make him unappealing to pro-status quo voters, Sanders voters and female, black and Hispanic demographics. Trump is being slammed as a racist, a sexist, a business exploiter and a liar. Clinton is being characterized as incompetent, an opportunist and a liar. No presidential race in recent history has been less edifying, and no candidates have been less appealing. The contest is not about "values," it’s about tolerability. Who is the least worst?
My prediction: Barack Obama won by 9,549,995 votes in 2008, with 129,450,097 votes cast. He won by 4,975,793 votes in 2012, with 126,840,008 votes cast, for a 332-206 electoral vote victory. Obama won Illinois by 1,388,169 votes in 2008 and by 884,296 votes in 2012. Clinton will win Illinois by 550,000 to 600,000 votes, with close to 55 percent of the total.
For Trump to get 270 electoral votes, he has to flip 2012 Obama states with at least 64 electoral votes, which means Ohio (18), Florida (29) and either Pennsylvania (20) or both Virginia (13) and Nevada (six). That is not going to happen. Clinton just needs all the 2012 Obama states, and she can afford to lose 62 electoral votes, meaning Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada (66 votes). That is not going to happen.
Beginning Nov. 9, speculation will swirl as to whether Clinton will be a one-term president. She will have won because of Trump’s unelectability, not her suitability.
U.S. Senator (Illinois). An ailing senator can be an invulnerable senator, provided he’s been around for a while and has become beloved. There will be a "sympathy" vote. That’s not Mark Kirk’s situation. Elected in 2010 by 59,220 votes in a turnout of 3,703,337, Kirk suffered a stroke in 2012. He has undergone much publicized rehabilitation, but he has gotten no bump in his popularity. Kirk failed to identify himself with any salient issue. He had 6 years to develop some stature. Had he been healthy, he might have done so. He is undefined and largely unknown.
It’s the bland versus the bland. Illinois has a long history of nondescript senators, including senior senator Dick Durbin and predecessors Adlai Stevenson, Peter Fitzgerald, Carol Moseley Braun and Alan Dixon. U.S. Representative Duckworth, an amputee war hero, is his Democratic opponent. She is credible, well funded, scandal free and a woman in a woman-friendly year. Some post-stroke gaffes by Kirk have called into question his judgment and competence, although he early renounced Trump.
Turnout will be at least 5.3 million, well above the 3.7 million in 2010. Duckworth will win with 53 percent of the vote, a landslide margin of 350,000-plus votes, buoyed by a huge vote in Chicago, the Cook County suburbs, and the collar counties.
Comptroller. Leslie Munger is doing everything it takes to win . . . but she won’t. She’s a woman and the appointed incumbent, she has unlimited campaign cash, probably around $8 million, is all over television, and has a persuasive message, namely, don’t pay the state legislators until they pass a state budget, which they haven’t done since 2014, when Pat Quinn was the governor. The comptroller’s job is to pay Illinois’ bills, nothing more, but she’s a Rauner Republican, and that’s absolute poison in this election.
The Democratic candidate is City Clerk Mendoza, a protege of House Speaker Madigan, making the Munger-Mendoza contest a Rauner-Madigan proxy war. Madigan will spend $4 million on Mendoza. No Hispanic has ever been elected to statewide office, but Mendoza will be the first. Munger cannot withstand the Clinton-Duckworth statewide deluge. She will lose by 200,000 votes, fewer than Kirk and Trump, and she be well positioned to run for secretary of state in 2018.
10th U.S. House District. Being earnest is commendable. It means being serious and intense, not playful and sincere. That defines the North Shore congressional candidates, Republican incumbent Bob Dold and Democratic challenger Schneider. A better adjective might be boring, uncharismatic or uninspiring. Dold, who won in 2010 when Kirk ran for senator, lost to Schneider in 2012 and then beat him in 2014, is "too low key," one union operative said. "He has no solid base," the source said. "He’s just there."
The 10th District is independent minded, and likes to elect cerebral congressmen, but it also went for Obama 157,400-112,252 in 2012. In that election Dold lost 133,890-130,564.
Both candidates are all over television, with Schneider tying Dold to Trump and the Washington Republicans’ alleged anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-Social Security, anti-environment agenda, urging a vote for "Schneider and the Democrats," while Dold hypes his early renunciation of Trump and boasts of being "nonpartisan and independent" and of being pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.
Schneider ran 24,000 votes behind Obama in 2012, and Dold ran 18,000 votes ahead of Romney. Trump will tank, getting less than 40 percent of the vote and taking Dold down with him.
20th House District. After years of free passes, Madigan decided that he wants McAuliffe’s northwest Chicago/northwest suburban House seat, and he recruited Merry Marwig to run. That immediately made it a $3 million contest, with Rauner’s political action committees and buddies funneling money into the Illinois Republican Party to pay for a blizzard of McAuliffe mailings and Madigan’s labor and trail lawyer allies funneling money through their committees into the Illinois Democratic Party and thence to the Marwig campaign for mailings.
It has almost become "Fantasy Island," with distortions piled upon fabrications melded with outright lies. Marwig’s mailers accuse McAuliffe of being a liar, a Rauner Republican, anti-labor, and of voting to allow sexual predators on school property. McAuliffe mailers accuse Marwig of being a Madigan flunky, a property tax cheater, and of taking $188,855 from "special interests that supported candidates convicted of child pornography." Each accusation has a sliver of truth, but each is eminently explainable.
What is true is that McAuliffe, a 20-year incumbent, has not been a Rauner flunky but did support parts of his agenda, and that Marwig, if elected, will be a Madigan flunky. My prediction: McAuliffe will win by about 600 votes.
Madigan and Rauner are spending close to $100 million to elect their candidates to the General Assembly and for comptroller. McAuliffe will survive, and the Republicans will win Democratic-held House seats in the 63rd, 76th and 71st districts and two Senate seats. Nothing changes in Springfield.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.