Analysis: Why Rauner won the Republican Primary and why Quinn is in trouble

Rauner beat rivals with smart politics, and backing of Cook County’s most influential Republican

By Ray Hanania

IMG_4986Bruce Rauner won the Republican Party Primary despite a strong effort by Democrats to sidetrack him and the persistent personal attacks made against him by his Republican Party rivals.

Everyone wanted to stop Rauner, except the voters of Illinois who elected him with a whopping plurality in a field of four candidates. Rauner received 40 percent of the Republican votes cast, leading his nearest rival, Sen. Kirk Dillard by more than 23,000 votes. Rauner received 327,289 votes, Dillard received 304,094 (37 percent), Bill Brady received 123,109 votes (15 percent), and Dan Rutherford the only one of the four candidates to actually have won a statewide election as Illinois Treasurer, received only 61,609 votes (8 percent).

In the Democratic primary, incumbent Pat Quinn won with a healthy 72 percent margin. But it says something about Quinn’s weaknesses that more than 28 percent of Democrats chose Tio Hardiman, a man accused of domestic violence against his wife, as their candidate choice over Quinn. (Despite the May 2013 domestic violence complaint by his wife, his wife set aside the rancor to support him when he announced for Governor. Read more.) Quinn received 316,746 votes while Hardiman received 123,918 votes. That is not just an unhappy 123,918 Democratic voters. That is a solid core of voters who will clearly vote for the Republican candidate over Quinn in November.

Quinn only beat Brady, the least popular behind Dillard and Rauner in this race, by only 32,000 votes in 2010. You do the math.

Kirk on the Campaign Trail March 20, 2014 at 0...

Kirk on the Campaign Trail March 20, 2014 at 05:31PM (Photo credit: DillardTracy)

Why did Rauner beat three well-established Republicans? Some argue that Rauner only received 40 percent of the vote and if it were a contest between two candidates, he might have lost. That’s a stretch, however. Even if Dillard received the majority of the votes of the other two candidates, Rauner would have only had to take 40 percent of the 184,718 votes that went to Brady and Rutherford to win.

The key component in Rauner’s victory was the endorsement he received from the Suburban Chicagoland Republican organizations rallied behind Rauner by Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman. Gorman is the Orland Township Republican Committeeman and previously served as the Chairman of the Cook County Republican organization. She has the experience and the respect of mainstream, moderate Republicans. Rauner had the backing of Sean Morrison, the Republican committeeman from Palos Township, and other key leaders of the Suburban Republicans who helped him deliver his message to voters in the region of the state that counted most.

Gorman won her own race with a whopping margin over her challenger, Barbara Bellar, a darling of the Tea Party extremists and took, for the first time in four elections, every Township including beating Bellar in her own community.

Democrats feared Rauner. Some Democracts dislike Quinn. Those two factors prompted at least 40,000 Democratic voters, analysts predict, to have crossed over to take Republican Ballots on March 18.

Democrats believe that if Dillard had won the 2010 Republican nomination rather than Brady, Dillard would have defeated Quinn feeding the myth in 2014 that Dillard might be the stronger candidate to defeat Quinn in the Nov. 4 General elections.

Gov. Pat Quinn Speaks at State Event

Gov. Pat Quinn Speaks at State Event (Photo credit: usacechicago)

Rauner’s strategy was strategic. He concentrated his wealthy campaign fund on northern Illinois, knowing that the fight is in the six county region, not downstate where Brady pulled most of his votes.

That made the suburban Chicagoland Republicans and Gorman critical to Rauner’s victory.

In November, despite the rancor of the Republican Primary, the Republicans who voted for Brady, Dillard and Rutherford will vote for Rauner rather than for Quinn.

Gorman supported Rauner because of his centrist views, but also because Rauner was smart enough to reach out to her and show her the respect she has earned as being one of the most popular Republicans in Northern Illinois, built on her successful campaign to eliminate the 1 cent sales tax imposed by Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

It is a fact that had Dillard received Gorman’s support, he might have won the Republican Primary.

But Dillard instead turned to a few Republican freaks in the north suburbs, and snubbed mainstream Suburban Republican leaders like Gorman and Morrison. Dillard played to his personal allegiances rather than to strategic political thinking.

And that is the amazing story of Rauner. Her are three seasoned Republican Professionals, two state senators, Dillard and Brady, and one of only two Republicans to hold statewide office, Rutherford. And none of these seasoned politicians thought it smart to reach out to the traditional Suburban Republican leadership or Republicans like Gorman whose record of election victories is sweeping.

Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Brady during a  R...

Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Brady during a Republican Day Rally at the Illinois State Fair (2 of 2) (Photo credit: myoldpostcards)

Rauner also won because he distinguished himself from Dillard, Brady and Rutherford.

Dillard had hired several former newspaper reporters who advised him, wrongly, to launch a vicious personal campaign of attacks against Rauner. Dillard also launched attacks against Rutherford. The accusations of sexual misconduct came across as a Dillard assault against Gay Rights and the ugliness of the attacks against Rutherford turned off many voters.

Rutherford is one of the nicest, most courteous politicians in the state and what they did to him was disturbing and below the belt.

But while Dillard tried to turn Rauner into a punching bag, his attacks seemed to over-reach logic. Accusing Rauner of owning senior care centers where seniors have allegedly died of abuse was so out on the limb that it was just too mean and too hard to believe.

To further make the point, Rauner followed Gorman’s strategy to focus on positive messages and to ignore the mudslinging from their critics. That strategy helped voters see a clear message of what Rauner would do if he is elected Governor, as many expect to happen in November.

Instead of making a case as to why he should be elected governor, Dillard reminded voters about how vicious and dirty Illinois politics really is. And his attacks reinforced Rauner’s message that his critics were insiders who were responsible for the tragic economic crisis that has handicapped Illinois and put many taxpayers into debt.

Quinn’s increase of the income tax is also not forgotten, and Rauner was the only candidate with a clear message tapping into that solid base of voter unhappiness with Quinn’s administration.

Dan & Andrea

Dan & Andrea (Photo credit: skeggy)

While it is admirable that Quinn has so closely associated himself with veterans, including on election night when he was falling all over war veteran Tammy Duckworth, the fact is that every politician loves the military and its veterans. They are not the deciding factor in an election.

Increasing taxes is a killer issue. Quinn never defended what he did. The increase has not eased the economic burden on Illinois taxpayers and many believe the state continues to be in decline. Rauner’s message targeted that dissatisfied voter majority and it resonated with their sense of the state failing to improve economically. They want someone to run Illinois like a businessman and Rauner played that card well.

The concern that Rauner will defeat him was reflected so strikingly on election night when it was announced that Quinn was not taking a break in the election but would start launching more attack ads against Rauner even before Rauner was declared the victor of the Republican Primary. It’s unheard of and it sent a chilling message that Quinn is afraid of Rauner, a message that voters heard loud and clear.

And in a telling moment on election night during the 10 pm news, WLS Channel 7 news is the highest rated program on television. Few people were watching the mumblings of analyst Chris Robling on WGN TV, for example, or the biased reporting of Carol Marin on WMAQ TV which trails WLS by a wide margin.

English: Ron Magers and Cheryl Burton anchor t...

English: Ron Magers and Cheryl Burton anchor the 5:00pm newscast on WLS-TV Chicago, June 16, 2006. Photo taken through the window of the State Street Studio of ABC7. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Viewers were watching two of the most respected journalists on television, Ron Magers and Cheryl Burton on WLS TV News, one of the most authoritative and accurate news organizations in Illinois. WLS was covering Quinn live when he came out to announce his victory over Hardiman. But as soon as word got out that Rauner was coming out, WLS dropped Quinn and turned to the news, covering Rauner who gave an emotion charged speech that was not his best but that clearly was more newsworthy than Quinn’s practiced, and recited talking points.

Rauner came across as interesting. Human. Like a regular person. Quinn sounded like he was reading cue cards, reciting statistics and boring facts that honestly didn’t speak to the economic pain many Illinois residents continue to face.

Gorman and Rauner both won because they ignored the attacks, and focused on their message, something not every politician knows how to do.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist and editor of the Illinois News Network news website at www.IllinoisNewsNetwork.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine. He also writes for TheArabDailyNews.com.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com, and www.UrbanStrategiesGroup.com. Email him at: [email protected]