Can Governor Rauner pull off a turnaround?

Can Governor Rauner pull off a turnaround?
Governor Bruce Rauner (Photo Credit Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)

I support Bruce Rauner’s plan to turn around Illinois, and the state needs to be turned around, but Governor Bruce Rauner is failing. I don’t know if he recognizes just how much trouble he’s in and just how deep of a hole he has dug for himself.

His wounds are self-inflicted. It is not because Madigan and Cullerton are so skilled that they have taken a neophyte to task in a learning experience. In fact, both Madigan and Cullerton are ham-handed pols, and should not have been a huge problem for a skilled politician.

There is the crux of the problem: Bruce Rauner is not a skilled politician, and he appears to be slow in picking up the skills necessary to succeed as a politician.

There is a common myth among the GOP that a CEO would make a good Governor or President. It’s hogwash. Governing and running a corporation are not even remotely related. All one can say about the two is they both exist on the planet.

In fact, most CEOs make horrible Governors and politicians in general. There is a good reason for this, too: they don’t listen, and sincerely believe they’re in charge.

The truth is they aren’t in charge. The public is in charge. In the battle for public support, which is crucial for advancing any political agenda, Bruce Rauner is not faring well. In fact, he’s getting an old fashion whipping and it is self-administered.

The Paul Simon Institute of Public Policy, at my Alma Mater, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale released a survey earlier this year that showed Governor Rauner has lost exactly half the registered voters, with 41 percent approving and 9 percent undecided.

Those are not good figures. The numbers would be worse were it not for the fact that 62% of those who responded said the current budget stalemate had not affected them, or a member of their family.

If the schools don’t open in August, what do you think will happen to that number?

There is another poll out, compiled by an out of state polling firm for a political newsletter, “The Insider,” shows Rauner in deep trouble: in this poll, the Governor only has a 33% approval rating. I take this poll with not a grain, but a ton of salt. “The Insider” is published by David Ormsby, a former aide to Speaker Madigan.

The bias of the poll didn’t stop Chicago TV stations from heralding the poll results and forgetting to mention Ormsby’s connection to Speaker Madigan.

When Reagan vetoed a budget from the Congress, and the Government shut down, he used his legendary skill as a communicator and blamed Congress for his veto. It stuck, and the Democrats lost seats in the midterm elections.

If the schools don’t open this school term, conventional wisdom is that blame will fall on the Governor and not the State Legislature.

Governor Rauner just doesn’t know how to do effective communications. In fact, of my nearly four decades in political communications, I would have to say his communications might be the worst I have seen in a three-plus decade career in political communications.

You could see the structural problems in his campaign that you knew would create problems in his Administration.

Even before he won the election, his communications operation was in trouble. I recall talking with reporter friends who were shocked at the lack of openness. Usually, when they are running for office, the candidate falls all over themselves for any media exposure.

Not Candidate Rauner. I am told by a reporter he would not go to WLS Radio later in the campaign because he was afraid of the questions he might be asked. Huh? A GOP candidate worried about going to a GOP propaganda media outlet? It’s not like he was being asked to appear on MSNBC and be interviewed by Rachel Maddow.

His message is divisive and is still divisive. Here is an example, in today’s Daily Herald, the Governor posts a guest column attacking the Democrats on education funding, stating “Suburban, and downstate families should not pay for Chicago’s mess.”

The last I checked, Bruce Rauner is Governor of Illinois and Chicago is part of Illinois, so those are his constituents. Bashing Chicago and bashing Chicago Public Schools is not something a Governor should be doing, and then try to sell his administration as being pro-education.

You can sell an alternative budget that is more equitable to the Suburbs and Downstate without all the tough guy talk. Name calling never works because people stop listening to you when you are perceived as “being mean,” or bashing.

President Reagan knew this well. That is why he NEVER bashed a rival.

Governor, can the tough-guy act. It has been going on for too long.

When Governor Rauner came to Springfield, he came in without the votes to achieve his agenda. He hired young staff with no appreciable experience in Springfield, which combined with his no appreciable experience in politics, and no appreciable experience in communications, has led us to the mess his Administration, and agenda has become.

His visit to The Tribune Editorial Board earlier this week is encouraging. He has dropped some of the demands which were absurd on their very face, like term limits. We have term limits every two years, they’re called elections. Send us better candidates, and we will have changes.

If the GOP loses seats and makes Madigan a dictator and that lays at the feet, or more accurately the communications department, of Bruce Rauner, and Bruce Rauner himself.

I want to see the Governor succeed. I want to see the state turn around and I believe he has the plan. However, I don’t believe it will turn around with his current communications strategy.

The Governor has wonderful research organizations to work with him in a turnaround, like Illinois Policy Institute, and the Civic Federation. They are not crazy ideologues or doctrinaire rather does solid research and has laid out great ideas that can put Illinois back as one of the top tier states. To implement these great ideas, the state needs a champion and we thought it would be Bruce Rauner.

Governor, you need to fire some of the kids, and get experience working with you, and most of all, be a Governor and cease being a CEO. That comes from 30+ years of experience in political communications.

Our futures are at stake. We have been counting on you and you are letting the State down. It is time to implement a turnaround in your own organization, so the state can turn around.


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