Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Does Rauner think his money can squeeze political opposition out of race?

It would seem that Bruce Rauner, the venture capitalist with ambitions to be Illinois governor, wants to use the Blair Hull political playbook (without the messy ending, of course) in his attempt to win his first-ever political campaign.

RAUNER: Will barn coat image succeed?
Rauner’s business successes qualify him as a billionaire who could, if he wished, self-fund a political campaign – making him accountable to virtually nobody as he goes through the motions of running for office.

YET I COULDN’T help but be amused by an Associated Press report that showed how many of the wealthiest regular contributors to Republican Party candidates this time around(including Kirk Dillard's 2010 campaign manager, Ron Gidwitz) are choosing to make significant financial contributions to the Rauner campaign.

In many instances, the wire service reported, those donors are on record as having supported the other gubernatorial candidates (such as Dillard, William Brady and Dan Rutherford) in past election cycles. But their past loyalties are not carrying over.

This time around, they want Rauner.

I’m not being critical of their fact. It’s their right to choose who to support, and who to give their money to. If they feel that Rauner is "one of their own" and they want to back him, let them.

ALL I’M GETTING at is that the Rauner campaign, which started out with significant financial advantages, is going to have the potential to be a cash-packed outfit that can use its money to overwhelm the opposition.

It will have the money to pay to get its message out early, and often. It may be able to do so in such a way that people start paying attention to it now, and just choose to ignore whatever any of the opposition candidates have to say.

They may be dead already, and not even know it!

HULL: Rauner hopes to avoid his ending
That is what nearly happened in the Democratic primary election cycle of 2004; the one where Peter Fitzgerald decided that one six-year term in the U.S. Senate was enough. He didn’t seek re-election.

HULL, HIMSELF AN extremely wealthy man who had never held electoral office, decided he wanted to go for the post. He used his wealth – reports indicate that much of the $29 million ultimately spent on his campaign came from his own resources.

So Rauner already has an edge in terms of getting other peoples’ money to bolster his own.

The result of Hull’s money were a flood of campaign ads and other promotional stunts that got the name “Blair Hull” into the public mindset. Nobody really knew anything about him. But his name stood out, compared to the other candidates.

The early polls showed that people would say they support Blair Hull just because he was the only candidate they had heard about in the primary. As time progressed, that lead for Hull remained intact.

IT WAS ONLY when word about Hull’s divorce (and the affidavits from his ex-wife that alleged abusive acts) became public that the Hull campaign went from self-funded frontrunner to something lower than Mudd that anybody started paying any attention to the Democratic primary opposition – ultimately resulting in little-known state senator Barack Obama beginning a rise through the federal government to the top post.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that Rauner has anything in his record or background along the lines of Blair Hull.

All I’m saying is that there is a sense in which an election campaign can be bought – particularly if you don’t exactly have overwhelmingly powerful candidates. Which is certainly one way to think of the upcoming Republican primary for governor.

This probably will be the election cycle won by the person whom the Illinois people despise the least. It may be Pat Quinn. It may be Bruce Rauner, or someone else. At this stage, I can’t figure who it could be.

ALL I KNOW is that Brady has already lost this fight once, Dillard couldn’t even beat Brady before, and Rutherford (a long-time state legislator from near Pontiac who is serving a term as state treasurer) may be the kind of candidate who only appeals to people who follow every single act of state government and take it way too seriously.

Just the kind of field where a candidate with overwhelming financial advantages could spend so much to get his name out there that people go to the polling places recognizing only his name – and casting their ballots accordingly.


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