Bruce Rauner has slit his throat, with his general incompetence and a campaign that was so dishonest that it set some sort of record in a state where truth is typically flushable.
The way he failed to get a single one of his goals accomplished in his three and a half years as governor is by itself a flop worthy of retiring him. But after having skillfully muted social conservatives in his successful 2014 campaign by promising an entirely fiscal administration, he turned on them by signing on to his wife's "progressive" social agenda. He now has placed the conservative Republican base in the unenviable position of voting for Rauner or not voting and handing over the governorship to the Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's lickspittle J.B. Pritzker. It's possible that just enough conservatives will stay home to completely return Illinois to the autocratic and destructive Democratic machine.
Rauner is fully aware of the noose he has placed around his own neck, as he acknowledged in this laughable attempt in his premature victory speech Tuesday night (he just had to time it to get on the 10 p.m. news shows) to united the Republican party. Saying he was "humbled" by the victory, he added:
To those who of you around the state who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear. I have traveled around the state and I have listened to you. While we differ on some things, let's commit to working together on what unites us--the reforms we need to save our state.
Oh sure. What's the first thing you're going to do, Mr. Rauner, fire your wife, Diana? By many accounts, the self-proclaimed Democrat and progressive Diana had more to say about you did than your revolving door staff. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that her influence (directives?) cleared the way for your approval of taxpayer funded elective abortions on demand (a rarity for any state), the helping hand you gave to illegal aliens, the deal that gave the union-controlled Chicago Public Schools everything they wanted "and more," and other betrayals.
Then there's Rauner's preposterous campaign ads that depicted his conservative Republican opponent Jeanne Ives as Madigan's handmaiden. Rauner took a clip from the only head-to-head debate the two had and made it seem that Ives would be soft on Madigan. The ad was widely condemned as shockingly false; even the aforementioned liberal columnist Zorn scorched Rauner for the ad. But Rauner continued to run it right up to election day. To clarify, Ives was talking about Rauner's failure to move the state any closer to fiscal health; Rauner responded with his usual "It's Madigan's fault, not mine," to which Ives replied, in essence and accurately, that it's going to take more than attacking Madigan to get anything accomplished.
By the way, Ive's cleaned Rauner's clock in that debate before the Chicago Tribune editorial board. As Ives revealed a sensible, detailed and comprehensive grasp of the realities, Rauner--who was totally unprepared--sat there smirking and completely unresponsive. Not debating Ives any more during the campaign was the smartest thing that Rauner did. (See the video below for the complete shellacking.)
Rauner never took Ives seriously because "she had no money." Indeed she didn't, compared with Rauner's vast wealth. It explains why Rauner came off so poorly in the Tribune debate. And why he had to divert some of his campaign expenditures from attacking Pritzker, the Democratic favorite, to his lame attacks on Ives. Turns out his wife's advice wasn't so fabulous after all, reflecting the progressive belief that no one in his right mind can vote conservative, especially on social issues.
Here it needs also to be said that Ive's biggest gaff was that sophomoric campaign ad that attacked gays, immigrants and others. That poor advice put off the very people she needed to win--social moderates and others on the fence. Ives showed herself to be a great campaigner, smart legislator and principled politician and she has a great future with the proper advice.
Rauner needs to work some kind of miracle to get enough conservatives back on board to get re-elected. How he will do that is beyond me. As a social conservative, I feel betrayed, as did a lot of others, including Cardinal Blase Cupich whom Rauner assured that he would veto the abortion expansion bill. What can Rauner possibly do now to get us back on board since he already has given away the store to his wife and her progressives?
The answer is that he will have to show everyone that he can be effective in advancing the conservative fiscal agenda, a nearly impossible hurdle when you consider that the state has fallen into a worse fiscal crisis since he took office and not a single one of his 40-point program for reform has been successful in this term. Yeah sure, Madigan is at at the heart of Illinois' problems, but to move forward it's going to take more than demonizing the man in control who has personalized every disagreement as a personal attack. Rauner has eight months to come up with a salable, workable program. If he doesn't, he's dead meat.
Disclosure, I did some freelance work for Ives, which is why I avoided a conflict of interest by not endorsing anyone prior to the election.
This post also appeared on RealClearPolitics.com