Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rauner victory in Cook County gives him the “Big Mo” moving into March GOP Primary battle

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Rauner victory in Cook County gives him the “Big Mo” moving into March GOP Primary battle

Gorman gives Rauner the “Big Mo” in Republican battle for governor

The media is focused on what they say is the “big story,” that the Cook County Republicans finally rallied behind a candidate for governor for the first time in anyone’s memory.

The Cook County GOP overwhelming backed wealthy Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner for Governor in the Republican Primary on March 18, 2014.

But the real story may be about Rauner himself and a critical error on the part of Kirk Dillard, a great candidate who might have become governor four years ago had he been able to defeat Bill Brady, who went on to lose to Pat Quinn.

Rauner may be new to politics, an independently wealthy businessman who has committed his resources to this race. But he showed that he probably knows more about Illinois politics than the so-called veterans like Dillard and even Dan Rutherford.

In seeking to win the backing of the Cook County Republicans, and thus giving himself a public relations victory – perception has a lot to do with victory in Illinois – Rauner was smart enough to approach Cook County Commissioner and Orland Township GOP Committeeman Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman for her support.

It was a strategic move considering that Cook County represents 21 percent of the Republican vote in Illinois. In the 2010 GOP Primary, more than 765,000 Republicans voted with 162,000 of them casting ballots in Cook County.

It was a fatal mistake on Dillard’s part to turn to the North Side Republican extremists for support and not go to Gorman, who backed Dillard so many times in the past.

The Cook County GOP has not endorsed a candidate for governor in years. They didn’t endorse Big Jim Thompson, one of the state’s most successful and popular governors. And they didn’t endorse Mr. Politics himself, George Ryan who threw poor political alliances and choices sent himself to prison for six years on corruption charges, only to be released this year.

But in the battle to defeat Gov. Pat Quinn, whose popularity has soared on the backs of several key issues from his marksmen-like play to push for pension reform and his undying support for Illinois’ military veterans, you have to be especially smart.

Rauner, apparently, is the only one who apparently is thinking ahead.

Dillard had the support of Ruth O’Connell from Wheeling, a well known foe of Gorman and a foe of the equally popular Illinois Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka. Dillard put all his eggs in O’Connell’s basket and watched as they all cracked wide open, winning a mere 10.2 percent of the Republican vote at the Cook County GOP meeting.

Rutherford, the Illinois Treasurer who is an amiably and as capable candidate like Dillard, also made a critical mistake by not approaching Gorman for her support. He won 5 percent of the Cook County vote.

Both Dillard and Rutherford made a critical mistake, but more so Dillard. Rauner, with Gorman’s backing and the backing of Committeeman Sean Morrison, won a whopping 63.3 percent of the vote.

It was unprecedented, but may give us a peek into the course of the Republican primary battle in the coming months.

Bill Brady, by the way, who won the Republican primary for governor four years ago, got nothing in Cook County. Brady got “zero” voter support in Cook County, which is the second biggest story to come out of the party leadership vote.

You could only imagine that had Dillard turned to Gorman in Cook County, he not only would have won the Cook County endorsement and would be riding high on the wave of publicity that Rauner is now enjoying. But he would probably have taken the party nomination this time around.

Dillard has always had appeal to moderate Democrats, in much the same way as the late President Ronald Reagan. Many Democrats in Chicagoland, especially in the Southwest region, viewed themselves as “Reagan Democrats.” They voted Democratic locally but Republican nationally. Some of that Republican inclination also helped Republicans win in local regional races in the legislature, too.

But we’ll never probably know, though. Gorman has proven to be one of Illinois’ most popular Republicans over the years because of her fierce allegiance to taxpayers. And Rauner won her support simply by showing respect.

It’s something Rauner will be able to use to empower his campaign, probably giving It a burst of momentum that might be tough to stop as we round the corner to the primary in the next few months.

That’s not to say that Quinn will be an easy candidate to defeat. For Quinn, Rauner’s “Big Mo” might help him keep the conservative Democrats from jumping ship for someone like Dillard. That won’t happen now and Quinn can count on conservative Democrats to stand with the party in March and for sure in November.

But Rauner winning Gorman’s backing might still give him an opportunity to carve out a strategy to appeal to Cook County voters who in every election have backed Gorman in landslide turnouts.

Gorman and Morrison have become the key Republican leaders in Cook County. You have to wonder about any Illinois politician who couldn’t see that a mile away, or who thought there is a better strategy in some nook and cranny up in northern Cook County.

Cook County Party Chairman Aaron Del Mar, who is a close Gorman ally, told the media his plan is to change the party and have them back the strongest candidates, rather than keep playing inside favorites. Del Mar noted this is the first time Cook County Republicans have stood up to become major players in a statewide race.

Gorman is also backing Jim Oberweiss in the U.S. Senate battle, a tough uphill fight against incumbent U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Rauner’s strong campaign war chest will only benefit all of the Republican candidates running in Illinois. He’s come out swinging with a battery of campaign commercials that have defined him as a moderate Republican and successful businessman in a state, he says, needs business smarts.


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