Ives has to convince the deep pockets

Rich Miller

    Until recently, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, had been passing separate nominating petitions for both her re-election to the Illinois House and a possible primary bid for governor against incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner.
     The ultra-conservative firebrand now says she has stopped passing re-election petitions.  But if a recent poll is any indication, Rep. Ives might want to keep her House re-election bid alive because the state’s Republican Party may not be nearly as divided as some GOP politicians have been claiming it is.
     A Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll found that 61 percent of 1,064 likely Republican voters had a favorable impression of Gov. Rauner. Just 24 percent had an unfavorable opinion, despite the fact that he has been taking enormous heat from his right flank ever since he signed a publicly funded abortion on demand bill into law in late September.  
     The intensely outspoken anger directed at Rauner over the abortion bill, which he promised to veto last spring, is pretty much without precedent.
    “In the face of overwhelming evidence of Rauner’s inability to competently administer the Illinois government, inability to stand up to Mike Madigan effectively, and inability to keep his word and his commitments, I can no longer support him,” said Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, after Rauner signed the bill.  “And whether or not they are able to agree publicly, I know hundreds of elected Republicans, along with hundreds of thousands of Republican voters, who feel the same way I do.”
     Maybe not.
     We didn’t test President Donald Trump in this poll, but nationally he’s been getting somewhere between 80 and 85 percent support from members of his own party.  So, while Rauner has some very real problems when compared to Trump, is the opposition stiff enough to actually take him out in the primary?  
     The poll, conducted for my newsletter subscribers October 25 to 29, found Gov. Rauner is leading Rep. Ives 64-19, with 16 percent undecided.  The poll had a margin of error of +/-3 percent.
     Rep. Ives told the Daily Herald not long ago that she had commitments for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in contributions.  But she’s gonna need a whole lot more than that because almost nobody knows who she is.
     According to the poll, 83 percent of Republican voters have never heard of Ives.  Of the fraction of voters who have heard of her, 8 percent said they had a favorable impression, 3 percent had an unfavorable impression and 6 percent were neutral.
     Rep. Ives can tap into a strong statewide network of seasoned pro-life activists to collect enough signatures to get her onto the ballot against Rauner.  And while that network can also generate lots of word of mouth for her candidacy (including via social media), it has historically never generated the kind of money that Ives will need to compete with the deep-pockets Rauner.
     If no millionaire surfaces to fund her campaign, she’ll need to tap into national small-dollar sources.  So, it was somewhat surprising that Rep. Ives did not try to use her kickoff to closely tie herself to President Donald Trump.  She never uttered his name during a long Illinois Channel television interview and didn’t appear to mention her party’s national leader when she launched her petition drive.  That’s probably the easiest way to attract national attention and support, particularly since Gov. Rauner is so reticent to comment on anything the president says or does.
     According to the poll 85 percent of Downstaters and suburban Cook voters have never heard of Ives, and neither has 78 percent of collar county suburbanites.
     Gov. Rauner’s Downstate lead over Rep. Ives is 65-17.  It’s 67-16 in suburban Cook County and 65-22 in the collars.
     Among men, Rauner leads 69-21 with 10 percent undecided.  Among women, it’s 60-17, with 23 percent undecided.  47 percent of the respondents were mobile phone users.
     Her only “bright spot” is Chicago, where Rauner’s lead is 41-34.  Even so, 76 percent of Chicagoans say they’ve never heard of her, meaning they chose her without knowing who she is. Chicago is the only region where Rauner’s favorability is upside down.  Just 40 percent have a favorable opinion versus 49 percent who have an unfavorable view.
     It won’t be easy to convince potential deep-pocket contributors that she has a fighting chance,” said pollster Gregg Durham of Rep. Ives.  
    “In this first, albeit early poll, it’s hard to see a path for her success should she decide to take the plunge into these very treacherous waters.”