The Battle for Obama’s Backyard

In this Oct. 8, 2013 file photo, Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner speaks at a news conference in Chicago. The minimum wage debate could be top issue on 2014 campaign trail. Evidence of that came this week as Rauner, a venture capitalist, backtracked from past comments saying he'd advocate cutting the rate. He emerged last week as as the Republican candidate most open to raising the minimum wage, telling The Associated Press he'd be comfortable with up to $10 an hour if either the national rate is raised or Illinois reforms workers compensation.
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
March 7, 2014, 6:29 a.m.

Bruce Rau­ner has emerged as the heavy fa­vor­ite to win this month’s Re­pub­lic­an gubernat­ori­al primary, and polling shows him run­ning evenly with Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in a solidly Demo­crat­ic state. It’s set­ting up for one of the cycle’s most in­triguing gubernat­ori­al con­tests in Pres­id­ent Obama’s old back­yard.

— Rau­ner is a first time can­did­ate, but his suc­cess at win­ning over top donors and con­ser­vat­ives alike prove he’s cap­able of run­ning a soph­ist­ic­ated cam­paign. His rhet­or­ic against “gov­ern­ment uni­on bosses” in Spring­field has spurred com­par­is­ons to Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er, prompt­ing labor to mo­bil­ize on Quinn’s be­half. Illinois will be one of many Mid­west­ern gubernat­ori­al battle­grounds where the clout of uni­ons will be tested.

— Quinn lost 98 of the state’s 102 counties in 2010 but his vic­tory mar­gins were sig­ni­fic­ant enough in Cook County to off­set deep losses every­where else. Rau­ner’s task is to chip away at Quinn’s fire­wall of sup­port by win­ning just enough Demo­crats and in­de­pend­ents here to win statewide. The X-factor: Chica­go May­or Rahm Emanuel. He’s close friends with Rau­ner and has a frosty re­la­tion­ship with Quinn.

— Former Emanuel ad­viser Tom Bowen pre­dicted the race will be a “barn­burn­er” with Rau­ner’s money al­low­ing him to make in­roads around Chica­go, where Re­pub­lic­ans have struggled re­cently. Rau­ner’s so­cially-mod­er­ate, fisc­ally-con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tion­ing should play well in the sub­urbs, but Demo­crats will work to por­tray him as the second com­ing of Mitt Rom­ney.

A Quinn loss would be the second home-state set­back for the White House, after Demo­crats lost the pres­id­ent’s Sen­ate seat to Mark Kirk in the 2010 midterms. Already fa­cing a tough midterm land­scape, Obama could see his home-state gov­ernor­ship fall to Re­pub­lic­ans — to a friend of his former chief of staff, no less.

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