The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s recent poll of southern Illinoisans showed Rauner’s approval rating absolutely tanking in a region he swept last year. Just 37 percent of voters in 18 southern counties approved of his job performance while 51 percent disapproved. The media usually reacts negatively when there’s real blood in the water, and that poll most definitely showed blood.
In both a Chicago speech and during a follow-up interview, former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar called on Rauner to stop holding the budget “hostage” to his anti-union Turnaround Agenda demands, claiming the lack of a state budget is hurting Illinois. Edgar remains a popular figure with political reporters and his statements were like a cold bucket of water on the governor’s “things are going great, and if they’re not, it’s all because of House Speaker Michael Madigan” mantra.
Gov. Rauner appointed Comptroller Leslie Munger to the office in January after the popular incumbent Judy Baar Topinka passed away last year. But Munger took her benefactor to task, telling a Quad Cities audience that the governor needs to stop attacking unions. “I don’t think it’s productive,” Munger said. “I think we’ve got to work together, personally.” Munger partially walked her comments back a few days later, but she continued urging him to stop the attacks.
Chicago hotel owner Laurence Geller’s public demand to Crain’s Chicago Business that the governor and the legislative leaders come to terms was less-noticed by the media, but could be the most important harbinger of things to come. If enough of Chicago’s top business leaders demand an end to this fight, it’ll end.
After all that, Gov. Rauner apparently thought it was a good idea to give his House Republicans a little pep talk last week.
“We’re winning handily,” Gov. Rauner confidently told Republicans during a closed door meeting, sources say.
And if you think that was a bit over the top, consider what he said next: “I’m stunned by how good a position we’re in.”
Rauner claimed he and the Republicans have Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan on the run and that “the entire Democrat caucus is in trouble.”
These are obviously not the words of a man who says he pays no attention to polls, as he claimed to reporters after the Simon Institute released its highly unflattering survey.
Instead, they’re the words of a guy who totally trusts his own pollster’s rosy numbers and who has put the state government’s future in the hands of consultants who have been itching for total war with the Democrats.
And the governor’s private comments are most definitely at odds with his recent public statements about the impasse. Just days ago, for instance, Rauner pronounced himself “very unhappy” with the impasse. “We’re going through some financial difficulties right now,” Rauner told some folks at the University of Illinois. “I apologize for that.”
Rauner’s private comments to his fellow Republicans last week line up far more closely with what he told a friendly Chicago Tribune editorial board earlier this year.
“Crisis creates opportunity,” he told the Tribune in April. “Crisis creates leverage to change – and we’ve got to use that leverage of the crisis to force structural change.”
The editorial board has been all-in on this theory ever since, most recently when it helpfully excoriated former Gov. Edgar on the current governor’s behalf for suggesting that Rauner try to look for a “doable” resolution to the months-long impasse. The paper, echoing the tiny group of radical US Congressmen which is refusing to cooperate on the national level, actually accused Edgar of advocating “surrender.”
And the Democrats, for their part, strongly believe that their long-term, privately stated goal of dragging the governor down to their own horrible polling levels to blunt his attacks is succeeding better than they could’ve ever hoped.
Their polling shows Gov. Rauner’s numbers are “dropping like a rock off a cliff,” as one top Democratic insider put it last week. An unpopular governor poses no political threat to legislators on the other side of the war.
Meanwhile, two New York credit rating agencies have downgraded Illinois’ bonds. Working parents are losing state help with their child care and are being forced onto welfare. Meals on Wheels is cutting back service to senior citizens. Colleges and universities are being squeezed like never before, etc., etc., etc.
But, hey, our political leaders are all convinced they’re #winning, so we have that going for us.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.