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Illinois 2018 Primary Campaign Notebook 1: MAGA, Mendacity & Moby Mike

First in a series: The GOP candidates for governor.

Ah, the irony: Incompetent serial liar vs. Trumpist.

Undercovered - and underappeciated - about the Jeanne Ives campaign (perhaps because reporters love a close race and would love to see an upset just for the drama of it, as well as an earned dislike of the sitting governor) is that she's not just a hard-right, rock-ribbed conservative, but a full-fledged Trumpist.

"Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives spoke at the [MAGA] rally because she wants voters to know she voted for President Trump and still strongly supports him," Northern Public Radio reported in November, as just one example. "She said, 'I believe in the policies that he's implemented to date. I believe in following our federal laws. I believe in arresting illegal immigration so that we can support workers in our state first.'"

She backs Trump through-and-through. And the sitting governor whom she's challenging is not about to make an issue of it. That's where we're at, as they say.

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The Tribune's Rick Pearson, to his credit, recently saw a flaw in Ives' support of the president. Pearson writes:

When Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives explains to voters why she's challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner in the primary election, she cites the honor code of her West Point alma mater: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."

The governor, Ives contends, lied to her and other social conservatives in 2014 when he said he had no social agenda, and she points to his signature on a law to expand abortion rights.

At the same time, however, the Wheaton legislator has embraced Trump and urges what she calls the "silent majority" that elected him to rise up against Rauner.

Trump's lies in office are well-chronicled - just Wednesday he boasted that he made up facts on trade during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump also has a history of cheating, including his affair with actress Marla Maples that broke up his first marriage, and the current fallout from $130,000 paid by his lawyer to a porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels as "hush money" about an alleged affair.

How does Ives reconcile campaigning on an honor code that prohibits lying and cheating as a rationale to take on Rauner, while not only tolerating but actively promoting Trump? Asked that question recently, Ives paused for several seconds.

"For me, it's a personal affront to what Gov. Rauner has done because I'm part of that Republican caucus he lied to, OK?" she said. "So, it's a very personal thing. That's the thing. I can affect him (Rauner) and the outcome of this election. I can't necessarily affect Donald Trump."

Hey Jeanne, West Point called and left this message:

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Then there's Ives' infamous opening ad, already in the annals of Illinois politics as one of the most horrific ever broadcast, even surpassing Jim Oberweis in his helicopter above Soldier Field complaining about "illegal aliens." ("I've made statements in commercials that I've regretted, and I've said so," he has since said.)

Let us not forget who Jeanne Ives is:

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Now, about Rauner.

What is there left to say? We already know what a liar he is. Here's just the latest entry, from Capitol Fax:

I think we may have a new "Pants on Fire" award for Gov. Bruce Rauner, who said this in Champaign yesterday ...

"Polls are pretty irrelevant. I don't pay any attention to them," [Rauner] said with a laugh.

Laughing at a question is almost always one of his "tells."

Perhaps Rauner's biggest Pants on Fire lie? Pretending to not know what "pants on fire" means (Reporter: "It means that it's not only false, it's ludicrous . . . ") - or, more like, evading with dismissive scorn what fact-checkers tend to find when verifying his many truth-challenged statements. That alone shows the same dismissiveness to Illinoisans whose lives have been absolutely mangled by his single-minded pursuit of Moby Mike.

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"It's important that my focus, my focus is on defeating Madigan and Pritzker," Rauner said last week. "A hundred percent, that's where I spend all my time and my attention . . . My time is a hundred percent, all of my message, all of my time, my attention is focused on Madigan and Pritzker."

Maybe give at least 5 percent of your time to those poor veterans in the Quincy home? My god.

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Also pretty laughable: Rauner running ads calling Ives "Madigan's favorite Republican."

"The truth is, Ives has been so anti-Madigan in the House that it has hurt her ability to get anything done," Rich Miller writes. "Her opposition to him is almost comical. Nobody, and I mean nobody who knows even a smidgen about the General Assembly would ever say Ives is 'Madigan's favorite Republican,' as one of Rauner's ads claims. They'd strap you in a strait-jacket and haul you off if you tried. She's been battling Madigan since before Rauner first ran for governor."

The problem, from an earlier Miller post:

"I'm getting reports from the doors of average voters saying the same thing. That 'Who's really behind Jeanne Ives?' ad of Rauner's is doing its job. Ives doesn't have the cash to effectively counter it, so she's getting buried by it."

I guess there'd be some irony in Ives losing to a candidate's audacious lies, given her support of the president, but the whole thing has me in despair.

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Not that you can count on the Democrats to behave honorably. Instead, they're turning to fake ads to influence the primary - for Ives.

I can't support anything designed to confuse and deceive voters - and that's just what the Democratic Governors Association is trying to do with an ad campaign pretending to oppose Ives based on her conservative positions in an attempt to boost conservative turnout in favor of Ives.

Why not just really go for it, DGA, and offer Ku Klux Klan members rides to the polls?

Democrats are playing with fire. Do you really want to further activate whatever Trump forces exist in Illinois (a state that has thus far not been fertile to Trump, just as it was not fertile for the Tea Party)?

As much as Democrats would also relish an Ives primary victory - based on the unproven notion that she'd be an easier opponent (certainly a less-moneyed one) than Rauner - it's worth asking if working to make that happen is a good moral choice. None of this is good for democracy - especially one that seems like it's crumbling. Pulling another thread from our already frayed civic life only hastens its demise.

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Next: The Democratic candidates for governor: Two and a Half Rich Men. (The half is a stretch if we think of the half as Biss, but not so much if we think of Pritzker as one-and-a-half rich men - at least - all by himself.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on March 18, 2018


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