Just hours after billionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination for governor in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn welcomed him to the general election with a tough attack ad.
The ad, which began airing in Chicago on Tuesday night, hits Rauner for suggesting that Illinois reduce its minimum wage:
The ad shows Rauner saying, “I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage,” and “I am adamantly, adamantly against raising the minimum wage” before asking (with onscreen text), “When you see Billionaire Bruce Rauner on TV, ask yourself: Who is the real Bruce Rauner?”
That last line refers to Rauner’s sudden reversal on the issue. Rauner’s statement that he would reduce the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.25 per hour back to the national level of $7.25 led to tough attacks by Democrats and labor leaders, causing Rauner to completely reverse his position.
“I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick,” the Republican candidate said just days after suggesting that Illinois’ minimum wage be dropped by $1 per hour. “I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that.” He has since reiterated his support for a national hike.
Quinn’s campaign clearly sees Rauner’s rhetoric on the minimum wage as a major weakness, and they may be right. Polls consistently find that Illinois voters support a $10-per-hour minimum wage (the level that Governor Quinn has proposed). Moreover, Rauner’s massive personal fortune — he recently stressed that he is not in the 1 percent of wealthiest Americans, but the .01 percent — makes him particularly vulnerable to charges of insensitivity towards working Illinoisans.
Democrats will certainly have their work cut out for them in the general election. Polls suggest that Quinn is one of the least popular governors in America, and the latest survey finds that Rauner will begin the campaign with a narrow lead over the incumbent.
Still, it would be unwise to count Quinn out yet. After all, the governor was also widely expected to lose in 2010, before escaping with a 1-point victory over Republican Bill Brady. And there’s now reason to wonder if polls have overrated Rauner’s appeal in the Land of Lincoln; although the Real Clear Politics polling average gave him a 15 percent lead going into Tuesday’s primary, he ultimately won the contest by just 3 points.