On Thursday, GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill passed by the Democratic-led Illinois state legislature to expand public abortion funding in Illinois. Rauner essentially had two choices here: Kill the bill and make it easier for Democrats to attack him on abortion in a blue state or allow it to become law and piss off the GOP base, and he choose door number two. That decision could cost him dearly.
Several Republicans didn't hesitate to bluntly voice their disgust with the governor, with several state legislators, including Assistant Minority Leader Peter Breen, speaking out against his move and saying they could no longer support him. Perhaps worst of all, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich publicly said that Rauner "broke his word to the people, especially those who have continued to speak on behalf of the vulnerable child in the womb." The local press even started to speculate that Rauner wouldn't seek re-election next year, enough that his spokesperson felt compelled to respond and say the governor was running.
It's still unclear how much damage this will do Rauner politically. State Sen. Sam McCann has been talking about running against Rauner in the primary for months, and while he blasted the governor as a liar on Thursday, he tells Politico he's still undecided. Politico's Natasha Korecki writes that some other potential names of possible primary challengers circulating around are state Rep. Jeanne Ives, state Sen. Kyle McCarter (who lost a primary challenge to Rep. John Shimkus 60-40 last year), and
state Sen. Dan Proft, a conservative radio host who took sixth place with 8 percent of the vote in the 2010 primary..
Ives told Chicago Business's Greg Hinz that she hopes Rauner gets a primary challenge, and she has not ruled out doing it herself. Hinz writes that Ives "is particularly well connected to key conservative players with access to big campaign cash." As the governor's intra-party foes know, they need to have just one strong candidate to avoid splitting the anti-Rauner vote.
Rauner is extremely wealthy and will have the resources to defend himself no matter what. But Korecki writes that possible primary foes aren't hesitating because they're afraid of Rauner's checkbook. Instead, they're worried that Trump's unpopularity could take down the Republicans running statewide here. Illinois' filing deadline is Dec. 4, so possible candidates don't have too long to decide.
But if Rauner does dodge a primary, or even if he wins renomination, he could still have problems. If conservatives decide to stay home next November over this, it wouldn't just cost Rauner, it would drag down Republicans in key congressional races. At the very least, if Rauner's future Democratic foe has more than enough clips of Republicans harshly denouncing him to use in ads next year.
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