SPRINGFIELD - Cynical Democrats and an arrogant Rauner campaign tricked ill-informed Central Illinois Republican voters in the days leading up to the March 2018 GOP primary.
Between the two campaigns, Democrats manipulated Republicans with $451,000 in ads into thinking gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives was "too conservative" for Illinois, and Governor Rauner's campaign lied to those same voters, making them believe Ives was a Madigan ally.
An analysis published Friday morning in Politico-Illinois explains what happened from their perspective, although it doesn't mention that a whole list of Republican county chairmen whose silence on the gubernatorial race was bought by first-time checks ever directly from the IL GOP, funded by Rauner.
Data kept by Advertising Analytics show the single ad that Team Rauner put the most money behind aired just four days before the March 20 primary. It was a response to an ad the Democratic Governors Association released that called Rauner challenger, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, too conservative for Illinois, a spot aimed to strategically push Republican primary voters toward Ives.
In a sign of the potential impact of the DGA ad, Rauner's campaign spent more than $1.7 million to air this response 1,162 times over four days. It's the highest dollar amount the governor's reelection campaign spent on any single ad throughout the campaign. Of that, more than $1.2 million was dedicated to a single market: Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, that central Illinois swath Rauner desperately needed to keep from defecting to Ives. "Conservative voter alert," the ad begins in all red. "The same Washington liberals that support J.B. Pritzker are now helping Jeanne Ives with last-second ads. Why? Because Jeanne Ives has already surrendered to Mike Madigan. Liberals are highjacking the Republican primary in Illinois."
Republicans evaluating the race say Central Illinois Republicans should be insulted that they were so manipulated. The cynicism of the Rauner campaign to use blatant lies in that $1.7 million ad distribution, knowing Ives didn't have the funds to respond, won the primary for an incumbent Governor with less than 20,000 votes statewide.
The Rauner and Ives campaigns have not resolved their differences yet. A growing number of Republicans tell Illinois Review they don't see coming together ever happening - and are resolved that Illinois will have a Democrat governor next January. They tell us the governor cannot be trusted and cannot earn their trust back. Rauner can't win without the conservative base.
See Politico's election results map. Rauner won over Ives in Central Illinois counties by a few percentage points.