November 12, 2014


Inroads in Some Very Blue States : The governors' surprise (Michael Warren, 11/12/14, Weekly Standard)

In Illinois, Republican businessman Bruce Rauner defeated incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn by nearly 5 points, winning every county but Cook (which includes Chicago). "Pat Quinn was a pretty open target," says Tim Schneider, the state Republican chairman. Quinn succeeded impeached Democrat Rod Blagojevich in 2009 and barely won election in his own right the next year. As governor, he temporarily raised income tax rates 67 percent while unemployment in the state climbed--it dropped off in the last year only because the labor force shrank. Polls showed Illinois residents overwhelmingly opposed the tax hike, and Rauner ran hard against it, suggesting Quinn would likely make the increase permanent if reelected. Voters seem to have made the same calculation.

In addition, Rauner made the unprecedented (for a Republican) decision to campaign actively for black votes in the Windy City. Starting in July, Rauner visited between three and seven Chicago churches every Sunday, focusing on his message of improving the city's failing public schools. The effect wasn't a huge shift in support away from Quinn, but turnout in Chicago was lower than it was in 2010. Rauner earned 21 percent of the Chicago vote, more than the previous Republican candidate's 18 percent four years earlier.

Republican Larry Hogan did nearly as well in Maryland as Rauner did in Illinois. A successful commercial real estate broker, Hogan faced off against Democratic lieutenant governor Anthony Brown to succeed the term-limited Martin O'Malley. A Democrat from Baltimore, O'Malley has presided over an eight-year decline in Maryland's standard of living as well as higher taxes--"a tax on rain" went the refrain from the Hogan campaign.

Brown represented a third O'Malley term, and as Maryland voters began to balk at that prospect, Hogan slowly rose in the polls. Democrats resorted to negative ads attacking Hogan on issues like gun control. One featured a frightening (and ludicrous) scenario of Maryland under the NRA-endorsed Hogan, with machine guns leaning casually against trees in leafy suburban neighborhoods. The attacks didn't work; nor did eleventh-hour appearances on Brown's behalf by Barack Obama and Hillary and Bill Clinton. Hogan won by nearly 5 points and in all but three counties and the city of Baltimore. It was, says Phil Cox of the RGA, the most surprising race of the year.

Posted by at November 12, 2014 5:58 PM

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