CHICAGO - Picking up on Illinois Review's story about Rick Newton's call for conservatives to support Bruce Rauner (HERE), Mark Anderson of the Ward Room has written about Illinois "values voters," and how they're being ignored by the Rauner campaign.
The truth is, Rauner is very likely to have trouble gaining support of the kinds of voters conservative enough to give a damn about social values and issues, like Tea Party voters. That’s because, in an effort to make himself electable to the widest possible voter base, Rauner and his running mate, Wheaton city council member Evelyn Sanguinetti, have bent over backwards to avoid taking a position or even mentioning social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
And for socially conservative voters who call themselves Republicans, that’s gotta hurt.
And while social issues may not be such a hot topic in political circles as they used to be, there are still signs some voters care deeply about such topics. A recent poll commissioned by Paul Schimpf, GOP candidate for attorney general, found that a sizeable component of Illinois voters believe issues such as abortion, gun rights, gay marriage and the like would significantly influence their choice of a candidate.
More over, Rauner’s views—and personal history—on issues such as tax policy, pension reform and economic growth put him at odds with other conservative voters for whom fiscal conservatism is the number one issue in Illinois politics. For them, Rauner is seen as a hypocrite on these issues, having made millions managing state pension funds he now wants to cut, making voters pay more in taxes when he slashed his own income tax payments and donating money to Democrats as a matter of course.
Over the years, Illinois chapters of national groups such as Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, and Eagle Forum have faded from the state's political scene. Even homeschooling families - a statewide social conservative network of activists and voters in the late 90s and early 2000s - have retreated somewhat from Illinois politics.
Having succumbed to more organized and forceful political opponents on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, traditionally conservative voters do still abound in Illinois, says David E. Smith of Illinois Family Action.
When asked about Paul Schimpf's latest poll, Smith told Illinois Review:
"First of all, it would appear that Republicans were the smallest group in the survey, and I think that is reflected in the poll. However, I wouldn’t deny that social conservatives are discouraged and dejected. Republican 'leaders' and most of the candidates have not given the Republican base any reason to be excited about the November election."
The Illinois Republican Party's base is solidly socially conservative, says Smith. Rauner could be making a huge mistake in ignoring or avoiding the base. It's happened before.
"It is all well and good to reach out to independents, but ignoring the base may backfire. In 2012, Mitt Romney won more independent voters than Barack Obama, but he failed to excite and activate the Republican base of values voters. It seems to me that the Republicans are content repeating this failed strategy."
Rauner is investing heavily in organizing the Illinois Republican Party, having transferred another $525,000 from his governor's campaign coffers to the party at the end of June. In the meantime, Illinois "values voters" seem without a home, and in a quandary when it comes to the upcoming election.