“I’m seriously considering the option, with a serious game plan, we’re meeting with people and we’ll make a decision one way or another soon, and I mean very soon,” Ives told me Friday.
She’s considering it because Rauner has lost his base. And what happens when an incumbent loses his or her base?
You can smell the toast a’burnin’.
“Voters don’t know what Rauner’s core principles are because he doesn’t have any. So we can’t very well give him a pass,” said Ives, a staunch social and fiscal conservative. “I’m not connected to the big money men who run the big races, but whoever would take Rauner on, it would cost less to defeat him than it would for him to redeem his reputation.”
Rauner lost the conservative Republican base in Illinois by moving hard to the left, first by signing “sanctuary state” legislation and then by putting taxpayers on the hook to pay for abortion on demand. On Friday, he axed one of his few remaining conservative aides, chief of staff Kristina Rasmussen.
Rauner supporters think his moves help him in Cook County, particularly with pro-abortion-rights suburban women. But will Rauner’s support of “sanctuary state” legislation win him Latino support in a general election? Will his decision to risk his career by supporting taxpayer-funded abortion win him love from Democrats?
I don’t think so.
Yet such moves do satisfy the media, that which will sing his praises and call him courageous and so on, and vilify or at least marginalize any conservative challenger, whether that is Ives or someone else.
That’s how things are wired in Illinois, but you knew that.
Ultimately, those singing his praises for his leftward drift will abandon Rauner in the general election in favor of the Democrats, either billionaire J.B. Pritzker, backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, or Christopher Kennedy.
That’s also how things are wired. But you knew that, too.
The problem for Rauner is that, as of now, conservatives make up a sizable percentage of the Republican vote. Without them, where is he?
But not so fast, says Pat Brady, a Rauner supporter, former Illinois GOP chairman and principal of the government affairs firm Next Generation Strategies.
“I understand Ives’ anger. I know social conservatives are upset,” Brady said. “But to their credit, social conservatives, they don’t stay home on Election Day.
“Bruce Rauner is the first governor to stand up to Mike Madigan, and the people of Illinois know it,” Brady said. “And 80 percent of the state has had enough with the Boss Democrats. So are conservatives going to throw their lot in with J.B. Pritzker and Madigan? I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
That will be Rauner’s hard sell, to convince conservatives that without him, Illinois will remain Madiganistan. It will be difficult if not impossible for him to win without an effective coalition.
But without conservatives, what is left of Rauner’s coalition? Wealthy businessmen? That’s not a coalition.
In this, he’s quite like Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also has the money guys with him but not much else, and remains quite beatable.
Emanuel has been reaching out to Latinos in anticipation of more bad publicity and negative feelings coming his way when the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, charged with the killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald, rolls around. Emanuel’s administration sat on the video of the shooting until after the mayor won re-election against Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Chuy won’t let him forget it. And neither will Chris Kennedy.
But Emanuel has time and other people’s money.
Rauner doesn’t have time, and he’ll be spending his own cash.
On the Democratic side, at least Pritzker and Kennedy have a game plan. Pritzker with Boss Madigan and a massive TV ad budget. And Kennedy seeking minority votes with endorsements like that of Chuy Garcia’s.
But what is Rauner’s game plan? That Boss Madigan has helped ruin the state? Rauner needs more than that, but his plan is becoming increasingly difficult to see.
He was a businessman, not a social justice warrior at the beginning, then he wasn’t conservative, then he was a conservative for a few weeks, then he fired all the conservatives working for him and made sure he wasn’t a conservative by supporting taxpayer-funded abortion.
It’s all been so very confusing.
Conservatives will either find a challenger, or convince Rauner to do the math and hope he won’t seek re-election and save the Illinois GOP from a fight. Or he can run, while conservatives concentrate on their own state House and Senate races and keep the governor at a distance.
“It’s best for the state if he announces he’s not running,” Ives said. “It would allow the party to come together and coalesce around another individual who could take on the Democrats. Because Rauner’s base has lost him. There’s no doubt about it. Talk to people around the state. You hear the same thing. His base isn’t with him.”
Those who are quite close to the governor say he has no interest in caving, that he’ll fight. It might be politically bloody, but he doesn’t care.
Rauner isn’t a weakling. He fought hard. He spent his money. He made terrible political mistakes that he didn’t have to make, but he insisted on making them. Now, he’s paying for them.
Conservatives like Jeanne Ives will insist upon it.