‘Vote suppression’ key to Rauner victory in fall
by RUSS STEWART
Democrats get positively apoplectic when Republicans propose mandatory photo identification cards for voting purposes. That’s "vote suppression," they holler. It’s racially discriminatory, they scream, especially since a third of all minority Americans don’t have driver’s licenses and more than 90 percent of African Americans and 75 percent of Hispanics vote Democratic. It’s intimidation, they insist.
Never mind that government-issued photo IDs are necessary to buy liquor, get a passport, board a plane and cash a check. Isn’t ensuring that only legally entitled citizens be allowed to vote equally important?
The Obama Administration’s Department of Justice swiftly takes those miscreant, Republican-dominated states, such as Texas, North Carolina and Indiana, to federal court and succeeds in invalidating their voter ID laws.
In Illinois, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is poised to implement his own voter suppression strategy, called "Boycott Quinn," and the so-called "magic number" is 500,000. Democrat Pat Quinn won his first full term as governor in 2010 by a meager 31,834 votes. Polling throughout the last year pegged Quinn’s "disapproval" numbers at over 50 percent.
Yet polling also shows Rauner with high negatives and serious voter resistance to electing any Republican as governor. After bashing the unions in his $15 million primary campaign, which Rauner won with an unimpressive 40 percent of the vote, Rauner is doing what politicians term a "pivot." He’s now running against the "Springfield special interests," blaring his support for term limits, pledging to "work across the aisle" with the Democrats, and focusing his attack on Quinn, who is deemed one of the nation’s least competent governors.
To win, Rauner must shave nearly 100,000 pro-Quinn Cook County voters from the governor’s 2010 statewide total of 1,745,219 votes. Either they must switch to Rauner or, more effortlessly, Rauner must persuade 100,000 normally Democratic voters — meaning minorities — not to vote. The March 18 primary results indicate that Quinn’s voter base among blacks and Hispanics is fragile. Rauner’s task is not to convert, it is to subvert. He must make the contest a referendum on Quinn, spend $25 million, and give voters a multiplicity of reasons not to vote for Quinn or not to vote at all.
To win, Quinn must focus the contest on Rauner, deflecting attention from his own shortcomings and failures. Quinn’s theme will be "Bad for Illinois." Rauner will be portrayed as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire who wants to cut the state’s minimum wage by a dollar, who wants to emulate Scott Walker of Wisconsin and cut state public sector unions’ collective bargaining rights and pensions, and who will plunge the state into the abyss of political chaos. Of course, that presumes that we’re not already in it.
Here’s a multiple-choice question. To triumph on Nov. 4, Rauner must:
(a) Have a pulse.
(b) Suppress statewide voter turnout, which was 3,792,779 in 2010, or 50.5 percent of total registration, by 3 to 4 percent. Black’s comprise 15 percent of Illinois’ population and about 10 percent of the vote, while Hispanics are 16 percent of the population but barely 4 percent of the state vote. Rauner needs a lower-than-usual minority voter turnout.
(c) Lose Cook County by fewer than 500,000 votes. In 50 Chicago wards and 30 suburban townships, having a "D" next to one’s name ensures a near million-vote plurality over anyone with an "R." Republicans, however, win statewide if they lose the county by fewer than 500,000 votes.
(d) Find some "sore spot" minority issues to highlight Quinn’s alleged "insensitivity" on racial matters, such as lack of "diversity" among his staff or state cabinet appointments, and foment a "Boycott Quinn" movement, particularly among Chicago and suburban Cook County blacks, to "teach the Democrats a lesson" and "not take our votes for granted" through a simple stratagem: don’t vote.
(e) Make some inroads among blacks, particularly among the churches. Quinn’s fervent support for civil unions and gay marriage has estranged him from the more traditional black clergy. According to press reports, the Reverend James Meeks, a former Democratic state senator, the pastor of the huge South Side Chicago Salem Baptist Church and a vice president of the National Rainbow Coalition/Operation PUSH, has quietly allied himself with Rauner, and Meeks has ties to dozens of other Chicago churches.
(f) Spread around plenty of pre-election and Election Day "walking around" money in minority wards and townships, so as to have a "ground game" to discourage people from voting.
(g) Stay focused on fiscal issues. Don’t attack unions. And make yourself palatable to everybody who doesn’t want four more years of Governor Jell-O.
(h) All of the above.
The answer, obviously, is (h).
In 2010 Quinn lost 99 of Illinois’ 102 counties against the very flawed, very underfunded Republican candidate, Bill Brady. Quinn carried Cook County by 500,563 votes, topping Brady 900,838-400,285. In 2006, in a big Democratic year, Rod Blagojevich lost 71 counties, won Cook County by 508,605 votes, topping Judy Baar Topinka 854,133-345,528, and was re-elected by a margin of 367,416 votes. In 2002, as Governor George Ryan was imploding, Blagojevich lost 67 counties, won Cook County by 468,974 votes, 905,188-436,214, and beat Jim Ryan by 252,080 votes,
The common thread is that in non-presidential election years close to 900,000 people in Cook County habitually vote Democratic, and the county’s Republican base, in a good Republican year (as 2014 will surely be) is 400,000 and shrinking. In presidential election years, the Democrats’ Cook County margin is overpowering: Barack Obama won the county by 1,141,288 votes in 2008 and by 993,055 in 2012.
As recently as 1998, when Republican Peter Fitzgerald beat Democratic U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun by 98,545 votes, and again in 2010, when Mark Kirk won Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat by 59,220 votes, the Republicans’ path to victory has been self-evident: lose Chicago and Cook County by fewer than 500,000 votes and win the Collar Counties and Downstate by more than 500,000 votes. However, the Republican brand no longer resonates in the Collar Counties; a Republican who wins them by more than 100,000 votes is a rarity. Fitzgerald won DuPage, Lake, Will, Kane and McHenry counties by 164,442 votes, and Kirk won them by 168,510 votes.
Fitzgerald won Downstate by 328,264 votes, and Kirk won there by 347,432. In the 2010 Quinn-Brady race, Brady won the Collar Counties by 114,583 votes and Downstate by 354,146 votes — and still lost.
The Rauner campaign has the money to run a multi-tiered, multi-targeted media campaign. Downstate ads will rip Quinn as an inept administrator and a tax hiker, lacking the spine to defy Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and the Springfield insiders, who panders to gays and minorities, giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and pushing the DREAM Act to give scholarships to their kids. To appeal to independents in the Collar Counties, Rauner will stress his "shake-up-Springfield" mantra and emphasize term limits. Rauner’s ads in Chicago and Cook County will proclaim that he will "work with" Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other Democrats to "fix" the state and city pension crises. Rauner is telegraphing the clear message that if he is the governor, he will deliver House Republican votes for a Chicago pension bailout, will deliver a Chicago casino, and will be Emanuel’s best buddy.
In addition, Rauner gives Madigan cover. If Rauner can’t solve the state’s fiscal mess in 4 years, then Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan can run for governor in 2018, blaming Rauner and the Republicans for "failed leadership." If taxes need to be raised, then Republicans will get some of the heat, protecting Madigan’s precious majority.
Conversely, any statewide Democrat needs a half-million-vote margin in Cook County, which means margins of at least 400,000 votes in Chicago and 100,000 votes in the suburbs. In 2010 Quinn won Chicago by 400,313 votes and the suburbs by 100,250 votes, which was just enough to squeeze by.
There are 1,364,341 registered voters in Chicago, with 606,767 in the city’s 20 black-majority wards. There are 1,416,811 registered voters in the suburbs, with 312,357 in the six black-majority townships. The countywide Hispanic vote is barely 160,000.
In the 2012 election Obama generated 681,916 votes from his black base, carrying the county by 993,055 votes. In 2010, however, Quinn got an average of 58 percent of the vote in the black base in the primary against Dan Hynes and more than 90 percent in the election against Brady.
The governor’s performance on March 18, when he faced a noncredible black foe, Tio Hardiman, is cause for concern. In 2010, when Quinn faced a tough primary against Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn fared very well among black voters and topped Hynes 88,227-62,968 in the city black base, winning every predominantly black ward.
On March 18 Quinn got just 60,739 votes in the black wards, to 18,883 for Hardiman. Clearly, keeping Quinn in the governorship is not a "must do."
The bottom line: Buying votes is illegal. For eons, Democrats have provided street cash — "walking around money" — of $500 to $800 per precinct in minority areas, to pay for precinct workers, judges’ food, gas and incidentals. Expect Rauner, through the network of Meeks, to expend $250,000 to discourage people from voting. "Boycott Quinn" will be the refrain.
Quinn’s defeat is not just possible, it’s probable.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.