Tribune Likely to Stand By Rauner in General Election

When Bruce Rauner faces Pat Quinn in November, it’s likely he’ll be doing so with the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune.

After a primary election that was much closer than polls suggested, Bruce Rauner won the Republican primary for governor on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Tribune offered an early preview of November’s election where Rauner will face Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn. The op-ed article, like the endorsements the paper gave to each of the two candidates earlier this month, paints a very bleak picture of Illinois under Quinn and explicitly casts Rauner in the role of the person who can change it.

The Tribune Op-Ed for the Democratic Party primary, written earlier this month, could only charitably be called an “endorsement.” If you only read the title of the op-ed, “The trouble with endorsing Gov. Pat Quinn,” you’d be forgiven if you thought the paper didn't endorse him at all. Even if you did read it and thought the paper didn't endorse him at all, you’d still be forgiven. The article had only two sentences that praised Quinn and his decisions during his five years as governor.

When the Tribune subsequently endorsed Bruce Rauner in the GOP gubernatorial primary, the paper said that if Rauner doesn't work out, the worst-case scenario is that he “someday returns to the private sector having tried to influence the cause that for many years has animated his public life: improving public education, especially for children trapped in dead-end schools.” The paper’s only argument to separate Rauner from his Republican opponents, who they deemed, “safe and steady choices,” was that his wealth and lack of experience working in Springfield would somehow make it easier for him to veto legislation. Putting aside the strength of the argument, it was less of a sincere recommendation of Rauner than it was a shrug in his general direction. John Kass, a conservative columnist for the Tribune, didn't have much more to add in his a column lamenting the GOP’s candidate field as a whole.

If there exists a lack of personal enthusiasm for Rauner as a candidate, the Tribune now seems joyous with the actual contest ahead. The downright giddy editorial paints the coming election as “a rich choice for voters,” who will decide the “governor's race of a generation.” Their excitement seems primarily rooted in the idea that the election exists as a prime opportunity for change. “Change,” as an electoral idea, doesn't tend to favor the incumbent. While the word appeared in Wednesday’s preview as a way to describe the election on the whole, the paper had previously bestowed upon Rauner the label of “change agent” in its primary endorsement.

I asked Tribune op-ed columnist Eric Zorn yesterday if he thought that the primary election endorsements suggested that the paper would endorse Rauner in the general election. Noting that he couldn't speak for the editorial board or its members, he referenced that while the end of the Quinn endorsement left the door open for an endorsement in the fall, he also acknowledged that “their enthusiasm for Rauner today is quite a bit greater than their enthusiasm for Quinn.”

Leave a comment