Illinois GOP gubernatorial polls shifting away from Irvin: Crain’s Juice by Greg Hinz
When he announced his candidacy a few months ago, hardly anyone in politics outside of his home town had heard of him. By April, he’d surged into the lead, a position he still held in May. But as of today, just about everyone in Illinois politics is writing the political obituary for Aurora mayor and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Richard Irvin.
Are they right? Quite possibly so. But as I keep saying in this topsy-turvy electoral environment, don’t bet your 401(k) on it.
News that Irvin had slipped behind conservative downstate Sen. Darren Bailey first surfaced about a week ago, when a group backing Bailey let loose word that Bailey had moved 6 points up in a poll done for the group. But then, in short order, Irvin pulled his ads from downstate TV markets with just two and a half weeks go until the June 28 primary—a clear sign of trouble—and the Chicago Sun-Times released a poll showing him being beat almost two-to-one, with Bailey holding a 15 percentage point lead.
All sorts of insiders on both sides of the aisle are confirming that the latest poll tracks their surveys. Even Irvin’s polls are said to show him down by a significant margin.
The easy explanation is that, despite the $50 million he was staked by Citadel chief Ken Griffin, Griffin may well be outspent by Election Day by a combination of incumbent J.B. Pritzker, Bailey benefactor and packaging mogul Dick Uihlein, and above all the Democratic Governors’ Association. All have run ads intended to help Bailey and hurt Irvin.
The Irvin folks have been left pretty much whining about it, griping—including via some film of me interviewing Bailey—that those bad ol’ Democrats are messing around in “our” Republican primary. They say their foes collectively could have spent $75 million by Election Day.
But there’s a bigger problem—beyond, that is, using my picture in an ad, which is never a good idea. The problem is that Irvin from the beginning has tried to walk an increasingly untenable tightrope, running as a tough-guy conservative in an increasingly hard-right party when, in fact, he’s pretty much a moderate. That may have been a good strategy to get to the general election, but first Irvin had to get through the primary, and in a year in which the primary is in June and not the usual March, his foes “had time to gang up on him,” says one top GOP insider.
Irvin in the time left seems to be trying to argue that he alone can beat Pritzker in the fall. But that message is all positive. On the issues that seem to count to the GOP base—abortion, COVID mandates, fealty to Donald Trump, et al.—Irvin has been unwilling or unable to distinguish himself from his foes. That, I suspect, leaves neither moderates nor conservatives terribly happy or inclined to go out and get him elected.
Perhaps Griffin will write another big check. But if $50 million hasn’t done it, would $60 million or $70 million? Or perhaps Bailey will draw some last-second nasty attention as the new front-runner.
Right now, Team Pritzker seems very satisfied with what it has wrought. We’ll see if they’re right.
In other news, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is having some reasonably nice things to say about that framework compromise on some gun-control legislation unveiled yesterday by 20 senators 10 each from the two major parties.
“Each of the elements in this gun-safety package has the potential to save lives,” Durbin said in a statement. “Though this agreement falls short” in failing to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons, “it can and will make our nation safer.”
In an earlier interview with Crain’s, Durbin sounded pretty optimistic about the Chicago area’s chance of getting the $250 million it wants from Washington that I wrote about last week, the first phase in a more than $800 million plan to being rebuilding and expanding Union Station and repositioning it to truly serve as the mid-continent’s Amtrak hub.”
“This is exactly the type of big-idea project that the Biden sdministration said it wanted,” said Durbin, who helped get local officials all behind the proposal. The region could get its answer “within weeks,” Durbin added.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol Rotunda, the House Jan. 6 Committee resumes its hearings this morning after some bombshells last week—including a promise that we’ll hear testimony that Trump told associates that his own vice president, Mike Pence, “deserved” to be hanged. Trump says he didn’t say it. I’ll await further testimony.
Wednesday’s hearing will be led by Illinois’ own Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon. Questioning is expected to center on how Trump tried to get the Justice Department to chase the theory that he was cheated out of an election win, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.a
Mayor Lori Lightfoot today will announce an expansion of mental health services in each of the city’s 77 community areas and, later in the week, celebrate the end of the spring school term. We’ll be waiting to for disclosure on who were the big donors at her reelection kickoff last week – look for some big money from labor unions—and to see if anyone else this week declares their candidacy for Lightfoot’s job.