A two-faced race
Some of you will read this column before the election, and some of you will read it after. I suppose I could’ve written two columns, but I’ve been kinda busy, so let’s talk about one of the weirdest things that happened this campaign season.
Earlier this year, ultraconservative activist Jack Roeser told me that his friend Bruce Rauner believed life began at conception. “I’d describe him as a guy who is a morally right-to-life guy, but not on the hustings,” Roeser, who has since passed away, said about Rauner.
Jack and many of his right-to-life allies backed Rauner every step of the way, while Rauner, who belatedly admitted that he’s pro-choice, spent much of the Republican primary focusing his attention on pledging battles with the Springfield Democrats and their teachers union allies and fighting for term limits.
The candidate has often said that he has “no social agenda,” and would instead focus solely on cleaning up government and getting the economy running again. But he also wanted to avoid stressing the issue for fear of alienating a relatively small but still important base of Republican voters who just won’t vote for a pro-choicer of any party. Every vote counts, especially if you’re a Republican running in Democratic-leaning Illinois.
But the issue exploded during the campaign’s final week. As I’ve told you before, Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union – one of Gov. Pat Quinn’s strongest supporters – spent big bucks supporting the unabashedly pro-life, pro-gun Libertarian Party candidate for governor Chad Grimm. The idea was to siphon votes away from Rauner. Like I said, every vote counts if you’re a Republican in Illinois.
The Republican Party of Illinois pushed back, sending mailers and doing thousands of robocalls warning Republicans that Quinn and his allies were trying to “steal” the election by pushing the Libertarian and claiming that Grimm was for gay marriage and belonged to a party that is officially pro-choice.
Rauner has contributed about 80 percent of every dollar the party has raised. He installed a loyal ally as party chairman. They haven’t done much over there without first checking in with the candidate.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice group Personal PAC launched a TV attack ad on Bruce Rauner in Chicago. The ad urged viewers to vote for the statewide ballot initiative on employer mandated birth control and claimed Rauner had given millions to “right-wing groups and politicians who oppose birth control coverage.”
Rauner himself had earlier aired a TV ad only in the Chicago area touting his “pro-choice” views. The Personal PAC ad was designed to counter Rauner’s message.
Not long after, the Rauner-funded Illinois Republican Party countered the Personal PAC ad with a Chicago TV ad claiming that the pro-choice Rauner was for employer-funded birth control.
Talk about your mixed messages on all sides.
You got your Quinn-backing unions pushing an anti-union Libertarian because he’s pro-life and pro-gun, while giving even more money to Quinn, who is pro-choice and a major proponent of gun control. You got your Republican candidate claiming he’s pro-choice and the almost totally Rauner-funded state GOP saying he’s for employer-funded birth control while spending big bucks (mostly Rauner’s) to warn rank and file Republicans against voting for a pro-gay marriage candidate from a pro-choice party.
The Democrats were outraged, incensed even that Rauner would be so duplicitous. It was proof, they said, that Rauner was really anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage at heart.
The Democrats only said that in Chicago, of course.
The truth is, they’ve been planning this all along. Folks at the very top of the Quinn campaign told me last summer they were going to make trouble for Rauner with downstate conservatives by pushing him as far to the left as they could in Chicago. I even wrote about it.
Their close allies helped keep the pro-life, pro-gun Libertarian on the ballot when the Republicans tried to kick him off, and then they funded his campaign in order to peel votes away from Rauner.
In other words, the Quinn campaign was behind what spies call a “false flag operation.” And Bruce Rauner funded two diametrically opposed advertising messages about abortion at the same time in an attempt to save his political neck.
Again, as I write this, I don’t know who won the election. But I sure know who lost.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter and CapitolFax.com.