OCTOBER 26, 2016



Next week, my predictions for Nov. 8. This week, an analysis of trends which will affect the outcome.

The "Brexit Model." Britain was not supposed to vote to exit from the European Union. The country's political, financial and media establishments were vehemently opposed, warning of imminent fiscal disaster should the referendum be approved. Both major political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, worked diligently to defeat it, and Prime Minister David Cameron staked his career on the outcome. The pro-Brexit contingent was lambasted as anti-immigrant and racist. All the polls indicated a solid anti-Brexit majority, somewhere around 55 percent, with strong support from younger voters, the so-called Millennials.

Yet, in June, Brexit won, Cameron resigned, no fiscal disaster has yet occurred, and the polls were horribly wrong.

Exit polling and post-referendum analyses ascertained that the Millennials did not vote in expected numbers and that older voters, the post-60 Baby Boomers and those over age 50, voted better than 60-40 for Brexit. The referendum won with 51.9 percent of the votes cast.

In the U.S., Brexit is Donald Trump. There is likely a serious polling disconnect between people who say they're voting for Trump and people who will vote for Trump, particularly among the older generation. The establishment shrilly proclaims that Trump's election would be a "disaster." The Trump voters don't care. They think Obama-Clinton has been a disaster.

Millennials, especially younger women, find Hillary Clinton uninspiring and Trump repugnant, and have minimal desire to vote . . . as in Brexit. Reports from states such as Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, with growing Hispanic populations, indicate no surge in voter registration, just 2 to 3 percent growth keeping pace with population. Black voters are apathetic, and they will not turn out in numbers as they did in 2008 and 2012, which were to them "historic" elections. Black voters turn out to vote for black candidates, like Obama, or against perceived anti-black candidates, like Anita Alvarez. The election of Clinton -- or the defeat of Trump -- is not a matter of earth-shaking importance to them.

The difference between Brexit and Clinton-Trump is that Brexit was a nationwide referendum, while Clinton-Trump will be decided state by state. Current polling shows the presidential race knotted at around 43 to 45 percent each, but Clinton is ahead by 5 to 8 percent in key battleground states. Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado are key. If she wins four of those states, she will be the president.

Overload and Overkill. Vote gathering used to be a logical progression, with candidates' efforts peaking by Election Day, hard-core voters being predictable, and 10 to 15 percent of the rest of voters making up their minds in the last 7 to 10 days. Now there are multiple peaks, and voters' minds need to be constantly reinforced.

In highly contested contests on the federal and statewide level, saturation television ads, usually with 100 gross rating points, begin 6 months before the election, with a mix of positive and negative broadsides designed to define, demonize, redefine and rebut. Every ad must be answered within 24 hours. Customarily, by the third ad, the viewer has tuned out. It's a law of diminishing returns: stay on television and raise more money, but the voter pool at which the ad is directed gets smaller and smaller. Voters make up their minds earlier, early voting starts, and the end-of-campaign bombardment is directed at a minimal voter pool. It's overkill.

Bruce Rauner was the exception. He was on television in mid-2013 with his "Shake Up Springfield" ads, won the Republican primary with 40 percent of the vote, maintained the barrage over the spring and summer, and then redoubled his ads during September and October of 2014. His strategy overcame the law of diminishing returns: repeat "Shake Up Springfield" relentlessly, spend $72 million, and that phrase came to define him and his campaign. A vote for Rauner became a message. By the time Pat Quinn went negative on Rauner, it was far too late. Rauner won by 142,284 votes.

In the Mark Kirk-Tammy Duckworth U.S. Senate race and the Bob Dold-Brad Schneider 10th U.S. House District race, one of the candidates has a coherent theme. There's no "Shake Up Washington," because they're all Washington insiders. They're running the same ads over and over again and not moving undecided voters, which are a hefty 20 percent, who have tuned them out. All the candidates are known, but none has given voters any reason to vote for them. Interestingly, the Chicago Cubs' championship run and World Series appearance has dampened, if not obliterated, interest in politics for a while.

The Leslie Munger-Susana Mendoza comptroller's race is a proxy war between Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. Both sides will spend close to $20 million to win an obscure and largely inconsequential job, which involves paying the state's bills. Each side's TV ads rip their opponent as being a toady of the governor or the speaker, but it's all just clutter. Voters haven't a clue about Republican Munger or Democrat Mendoza and what they're running for, and they don't care. If Rauner wanted his appointee Munger to win, she needed to start spending on television ads in mid-2015.

In about a dozen key state legislative races, each party is spending $2 million, which includes major media TV ads. Illinois' population at the last census was 12,882,135, which means about 109,000 people per Illinois House district and 218,000 per Illinois Senate district. The brutal Mike McAuliffe-Merry Marwig race in the Northwest Side/suburban 20th Illinois House District exemplifies the waste of resources: 38,748 people voted in the 2012 contest, about half of the registered voters. To win in November, McAuliffe needs 20,000 votes.

Rauner and his rich buddies are funneling about $20 million to Munger and the Illinois Republican Party, which is paying for McAuliffe's television ads during Bears and Cubs games and during prime time. Madigan and his rich union and trial lawyer buddies are funneling $15 million to Mendoza and the Illinois Democratic Party, which is paying for the Marwig campaign. With about 3 million adults in the Chicago media market, at least 95 percent of the viewers don't live in the 20th District.

However, gobs of money are being spent more effectively in direct mail, which McAuliffe initiated in May. From July on, at least three McAuliffe pieces landed in every voter's mailbox weekly, with Marwig rejoining with two. Most of the pieces are repetitive: liar, property tax cheater, Rauner stooge, Madigan stooge, but the premise of mailings quickly evolves from persuasion to reinforcement. In effect, it's checkmate, and the mailers keep coming.

Rauner Watch. Rauner is a polarizing figure. Critics claim that he is as unpopular as Rod Blagojevich, or maybe George Ryan, or maybe Dan Walker. Anyway, Rauner has a very low bar. He did not run in 2014 to begin a political career. In the 3 years before his election, Rauner earned $100 million. Without question, Rauner has shaken up Springfield, and it's no longer business as usual. It's now gridlock, as opposed to tax hikes or kicking the can down the road.

Two gubernatorial contests this year may be harbingers. In North Carolina, Republican incumbent Pat McCrory is in a world of hurt, primarily because of a Republican legislature obsessed with social issues. As Charlotte's mayor for 14 years, McCrory built a moderate image and worked with the Democrats. He ran for governor in 2008, losing to Bev Perdue by 145,021 votes, as Obama won the state by 127,125 votes. Perdue proved inept, had a $4.7 billion budget shortfall, and retired in 2012. McCrory won by 509,127 votes.

The Republicans won the legislature in 2010, and they have 34-16 and 74-45 majorities, respectively, in the Senate and the House. Rural conservatives dominate, putting a focus on social rather than fiscal issues. McCrory tried to be somewhat independent, vetoing a ban on same-sex marriage, but liberals have been staging protests every Monday in Raleigh for years, and McCrory's foe is Roy Cooper, the Democratic attorney general whose theme is that he will put a check on the Republican legislature. Sound familiar?

Rauner astutely avoids social issues, and he is vilified only on fiscal issues.

In Indiana, outgoing governor Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, has been a polarizer, opposing aspects of "Obamacare," requiring prison inmates to serve 75 percent of their sentence, and cutting personal income taxes by 50 percent. He won by 75,408 votes in 2012, and he faced a tough 2016 rematch with Democrat John Gregg, a former House speaker. Pence was replaced by Eric Holcomb, the Republican lieutenant governor.

Republicans have 40-10 and 71-29 majorities, respectively, in the Senate and the House. Gregg is running on the theme that he will checkmate the Republicans. Sound familiar? The Democrats are taking a page out of Rauner's playbook. Rauner's test for 2018 will be whether he has "shaken up Springfield" for better or for worse. Indiana and North Carolina will give a hint.

Laquan McDonald's Law. House Bill 6616 will never be enacted. It would mandate a recall provision applicable to Chicago's mayor, all 50 aldermen and the county state's attorney. In other words, get 100,000 petition signatures, put it on the ballot, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel could be gone. Why wait for 2019?

Dating to the early 1900s, recall was a staple of the progressive movement, and it is used in California and Wisconsin. It is a politician's worst nightmare: irritate the public and you're history. It is long overdue in Chicago and Cook County.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.