Rauner won’t eliminate Springfield dysfunction
by RUSS STEWART
The outcome of Illinois’ gubernatorial race proves anew that any mother’s son can grow up to be governor, provided that he can self-fund $28 million and raise another $60 million.
Republican Bruce Rauner’s win also reaffirms another pearl of wisdom: Bad always gets worse. If Illinoisans thought that state government was incompetent and leadership was dysfunctional under the Quinn-Madigan-Cullerton Democratic regime, they ain’t seen nothing yet.
The 2018 campaign for governor started on Nov. 5. Attorney General Lisa Madigan is the presumptive Democratic nominee, and House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton will do everything possible to sabotage, stain and sully the new governor.
They want Rauner to fail so Lisa Madigan can win. They want to compel Rauner to break his promises of fiscal restraint and make him collude with the Democrats to raise the state income yet again. Then the blame can be shared, and Lisa Madigan can tar Rauner as a tax hiker.
In analyzing Rauner’s victory over Pat Quinn, in which he carried 101 of 102 counties, distinctions between the 2010 and 2014 elections are evident.
First, voters clearly chose management over policy. Quinn tried to frame the contest as class warfare, insisting that he would block tax breaks for millionaires and raise the minimum wage and that he was the populist David out to slay the plutocrat Goliath. He failed. Voters want efficient, well managed government. In 2010 voters didn’t equate Quinn with mismanagement; this year they did.
Second, turnout in the 2010 race for governor was 3,458,604, and Quinn topped Bill Brady 1,745,219-1,713,385, winning by a margin of 31,834 votes. Quinn got 46.8 percent of the vote, to 45.9 percent for Brady. Two other candidates, independent Scott Lee Cohen and Green Party candidate Rich Whitney, got a combined 236,463 votes, or 6.3 percent of the total. Quinn got only a few thousand more votes than Rod Blagojevich got in 2006 — 1,745,219 compared to 1,736,731 — and Brady got 344,070 more votes than Topinka got in 2006.
However, Quinn and Blagojevich each carried Cook County by more than 500,000 votes, and that was enough to win.
Turnout for governor this year was 3,508,302, barely 50,000 more than in 2010. Rauner topped Quinn 1,781,052-1,609,152, a margin of 171,900 votes. Rauner got 50.8 percent of the vote to 45.9 percent for Quinn, with Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm finishing with 118,098 votes (3.4 percent). Quinn got 136,067 fewer votes than he did in 2010, and Rauner got 67,667 more votes than Brady.
The conclusion is obvious: At least 125,000 of Quinn’s vote in 2010 was anti-Brady, mostly centered in Cook County and the Collar Counties. Many of those voters switched back to Rauner, and only half of the 2010 Cohen/Whitney vote stuck with Grimm. Rauner got half of the remainder, and half didn’t vote.
Quinn’s Cook County vote margin was only 390,800 votes, a diminution of 117,805 votes. Brady got just 39.6 percent of the vote in the Cook County suburbs and a measly 17.4 percent in Chicago, while Rauner’s saturation television ads and "ground game" gave him 52.3 percent of the vote in the suburbs and 21 percent in Chicago. Brady lost 900,838-400,285 countywide in 2010, but Rauner fared somewhat better, losing 822,047-431,247, an 85,719-vote gain. Those votes were suburban, and Rauner wasted his time and money attempting to increase the minority vote.
Third, it has long been conventional wisdom that to win statewide a Democrat needs to carry Cook County by more than 500,000 votes. The five Collar Counties — DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry and Kane — usually give a viable Republican candidate a margin of 150,000 to 200,000 votes, and the Downstate counties usually deliver a Republican plurality of 250,000 to 300,000 votes. Rauner ran almost 80,000 votes ahead of Brady’s showing in the Collar Counties.
Rauner won DuPage County 162,964-98,232 (with 60.9 percent of the vote). Brady won the county 154,986-110,117 in 2010. Quinn’s vote was down 12,000, and Rauner’s was up 8,000.
Rauner won Lake County 114,593-77,951 (with 58.2 percent). Brady won 102,675-86,878. Quinn’s vote was down 9,000, and Rauner’s was up 12,000.
Rauner won Will County 106,922-78,856 (with 55.9 percent). Brady won 97,831-79,786. Quinn’s vote was down 1,000, and Rauner’s was up 9,000.
Rauner won Kane County 74,523-44,399 (with 61.1 percent). Brady won 68,426-48,579. Quinn’s vote was up 4,000, and Rauner’s was up 6,000.
Rauner won McHenry County 61,459-28,919 (with 65.8 percent), in his best suburban showing. Brady won 53,585-31,659. Quinn’s vote was down 2,000, and Rauner’s was up 8,000.
Rauner won the Collar Counties by 520,461-328,357, getting 61.3 percent of the vote and winning by a margin of 192,104 votes — fulfilling expectations. Brady won the Collar Counties by 114,583 votes.
Fourth, Quinn’s enormous unpopularity gave Rauner a smashing win Downstate. Brady, of Bloomington, won the 96 Downstate counties by 354,146 votes. Rauner won them by 370,596 votes — a pickup of about 16,000 votes.
Fifth, Quinn and his strategists thought Quinn-Rauner was going to be Obama-Romney Part II. He refused to consider that a hefty portion of Obama’s 2008 voters (3,419,348) and 2012 voters (3,019,512) might actually demand a governor who is competent and productive, rather than a governor who excels at pandering and prevaricating. He figured that he could demonize Rauner as an out-of-touch billionaire, while depicting himself as being for "regular people." All he needed to do, he concluded, was "fire up the base," meaning minorities, gays, pro-choicers, teachers and union members. Get them to vote in Obama-like numbers, to revile Rauner, to back ballot referendums and amendments (minimum wage, contraceptives, etc.), and they would naturally vote for him. The more who vote, the more Democratic votes.
Rauner ran a rocky, often flawed campaign, but he stayed on message: "Shake Up Springfield." "Bring Back Illinois." He was the outsider. He made no gaffes. He exuded optimism. His wife vouched for him. He was no "angry white male." He was not threatening. Quinn never made a convincing case that he could fix Springfield’s dysfunction.
Quinn got 1,674,129 fewer votes in 2010 than Obama got in 2008. Quinn got 1,410,360 fewer votes in this election than Obama got in 2012. Conversely, Rauner got 354,164 fewer votes than Romney got in 2012.
In Chicago’s 20 black-majority wards, where a concerted, expensive get-out-the-vote drive was waged, the result was dismal. Obama got 441,462 votes in 2012, and Quinn got 259,593 votes on Nov. 4 — a 40 percent drop-off.
Sixth, Rauner’s game plan was to make the race a referendum on Quinn and, indirectly, on Obama. Angry voters were looking to punish someone, with anti-Obama voters and Republicans trooping to the polls and pro-Obama voters and Democrats staying home. Throughout the campaign, tracking polls pegged resistance to both candidates, with favorable ratings for both mired at 45 percent or under. The negativity reached a crescendo by late October, with 10 percent of the voters still undecided. Normally, the undecided voters break against the incumbent; if they’re not for him early, they’re not for him late.
In 2010, because of Brady’s inept, underfunded campaign and intervention by pro-choicers, the undecideds broke late, with about a third going to Quinn and a third to Cohen and the Green Party. This year the undecided voters, who primarily were well educated suburbanites or Lakefronters, broke 80-10-10 for Rauner, Quinn and Grimm. The Libertarian vote was 3.4 percent, as most "protest voters" settled on Rauner.
Rauner’s campaign-end "pivot" was critical. He ran a bunch of "happy face" ads featuring him and his smiling wife, but he also maintained a drumbeat of negativity. Quinn stayed negative to the end. Rauner emerged as the "least worst" choice.
Seventh, Rauner’s money leveled the statewide playing field. Had a Brady-like Republican been on the ballot for governor, both incumbent Republican Comptroller Topinka and Republican treasurer candidate Tom Cross would have lost. As of now, Cross is ahead by about 800 votes and Topinka won by a narrower-than-expected 100,000 votes, barely cracking 50 percent of the vote, but Rauner’s big bucks were easily offset by Madigan and Cullerton, whose millions ensured that they kept their legislative super majorities.
Voters may have elected Rauner, but that didn’t "Shake Up Springfield." They merely shook out Quinn. Incredibly, Madigan retained his 71-47 super majority, which means that if the Democrats coalesce, they can override any Rauner veto and pass any bill in overtime sessions. Cullerton lost one Senate seat, but he still has a 39-20 super majority.
Some of the House contests were extremely close. Kate Cloonen and Mike Smiddy, winners in 2012, won by 12 votes and 281 votes, respectively, and veteran Dick Mautino won by 340 votes. Northwest suburban target Marty Moylan won by about 1,500 votes. Madigan and the state Democratic Party, of which he is chairman, spent close to $10 million to keep the House, and Cullerton spent about $6 million to keep the Senate.
Notably, there was no coordination with the Quinn campaign. Many Democrats, like Moylan, ran as "fiscal conservatives" — and the voters bought that bull.
Rauner has two governing options: truce or war. Make deals with the bosses or veto everything that comes his way and make them override it. Either way, he will make enemies, and he will be a one-term governor.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.