November 14, 2018



Judging by the results of the 2018 general election, was this the beginning of the end of the presidential reign of Donald Trump and his Republican Party? If Republicans fared so poorly in blue (Democratic) states with Trump NOT on the ballot, how can they expect to do better in 2020 with Trump ON the ballot?

Or is this the end of the beginning of the Trump presidency? Will Democrats choose an unelectable 2020 presidential candidate and hand Trump another term, keeping him in office through 2024?

In Illinois and Cook County, the Democratic Nov. 6 blowout more aptly signals the end of the end for Republicans. They have not yet cratered, but another drubbing waits in 2020 and, after the 2021 remap, yet another drubbing awaits in 2022. In the pre-Trump era, as recently as 2014, a Republican could win statewide by holding the Democratic vote margin under 500,000 in Chicago and Cook County, and then winning the collar counties and downstate by more than that. As demonstrated in both 2016 and 2018, the Democrats are now able to come out of Chicago, Cook County and the collar counties by 1,000,000 or more votes, lose downstate by 200,000 to 300,000 votes, and still win statewide by 600,000 to 900,000 votes. That is the new reality of state politics.

Another reality is that Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will no longer be able to level the playing field by pouring his money (and that of his associates) into the Republican Party and Republican candidates, as he did in 2016. Although Hillary Clinton won the state by 944,714 votes, Republicans actually gained legislative seats.

Rauner spent close to $90 million trying to re-elect himself, as opposed to winner J.B. Pritzker's expenditure of $143 million, and Republicans lost the super-majority in the House. Clearly the anti-Trump wave translated into a wave of votes for every "D" on the ballot and, much to much-maligned Mike Madigan's delight, gave him six more Illinois House members, a 73-45 majority, and even more power.

Rauner's demise obliterates any future playing field, as special interest money will flow entirely to the dominant legislative Democrats and our new billionaire governor can spend millions on legislative incumbents and candidates with alacrity. There will be no counter-force or checks-and-balances in Springfield, and no Big Bucks/Big Daddy to come to the Republicans' rescue by spending $75 million to run for an un-winnable office as long as Trump is around. Their years in the proverbial wilderness have begun, and will last until 2022 at the earliest.

Only if Pritzker is a disastrous governor will Republicans begin to rebound, and raising a slew of taxes is no longer politically disastrous. But it should be noted that while Pritzker may have beaten Rauner by 659,527 votes, he received 54.2 percent of the total vote. Conservative Party nominee Sam McCann, a social conservative that ran an anti-Rauner campaign, got 188,486 votes, or 4.3 percent, and Libertarian Kash Jackson received 105,480 votes, or 2.4 percent. That means the 2018 anti- or non-Pritzker vote was 45.8 percent. And that means Republicans are not necessarily mired at 40 percent.

It also means that there will be a monstrous fight during 2019-20 for control of the party's post-2018 message between the existing establishment, which was dependent on Rauner's money, and the social right, which includes those who are pro-gun, anti-abortion, and, to a limited extent, pro-Trump. They constituent half of the Republican base, which means, in actuality, about a quarter of the total statewide vote. And as the most active half of the dwindling Republican base, could nominate hard-right senatorial and legislative nominees in 2020.

GOVERNOR: Rauner won his 2014 upset 1,823,627 to 1,681,343 in a turnout of 3,626,504, a margin of 142,284, and most critically kept incumbent Pat Quinn's (D) Chicago and Cook County margin to less than 500,000 votes. In a 2018 turnout of 4,399,517, Pritzker won 2,382,536 to 1,723,015, a margin of 659,521 votes. His 39.2 percent in a four-candidate field is a record low.

Rauner lost Chicago by 576,079 votes in 2018 and lost the Cook County suburbs by 244,887 votes. Overall, he lost countywide by 820,960 votes.

The seven collar counties were an unmitigated disaster. Rauner lost DuPage County by 3,781 votes, Lake County by 18,001 votes, Kane County by 2,914 votes, Will County by 14,199 votes, Kendall County by 103 votes, and DeKalb County by 772 votes. He won McHenry County by 12,245 votes. That is a Pritzker margin of 27,525 votes. The collar counties used to be solidly Republican bastions and reliably delivering combined Republican majorities of 200,000. If the Republicans are now losing those counties, the party is doomed.

Slippage due to demographic change began in 2008, with the Obama-McCain election. The counties had become less old, less white and hence less conservative, even as median income increased. Hispanic population is inexorably increasing, and they are solidly Democratic. Mitt Romney, in the 2012 presidential race, won the collar counties comfortably and in 2016, Trump lost them.

The next 2 years will be a battle for the Republican Party's soul, with social conservatives - meaning those who are pro-gun, anti-abortion, and generally pro-Trump - battling the establishment. Rauner barely won re-nomination against Jeanne Ives, which means the hard right represents one half of the Republicans' 40 percent base. They could never win statewide, but could win a Republican nomination.

On the 2020 ballot will be Dick Durbin's (D) senate seat, the presidential race, and congressional and state legislative contests. Future Republican nominations will not be about selecting candidates who can win, but rather about candidacies to promote an agenda. That is a recipe for defeat. Sure, there are funders, like for example Dan Proft's Liberty Principles PAC, that will provide money. The question is whether Rauner's financial angels really care anymore.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is not unusual for an incumbent attorney general to get more votes than the governor, as the governor incurs more negativity. But it is unusual for an attorney general candidate to get more votes than the governor. Erika Harold (R) lost 2,387,427 to 1,899,360 to Kwame Raoul (D), a margin of 490,067 votes. Harold received 176,345 more votes than Rauner. Raoul's relentless attacks on Harold, portraying her as anti-abortion, pro-Trump and pro-Rauner was enormously effective. Republican candidates for treasurer and comptroller both lost by more than 500,000 votes.

CONGRESSIONAL: The latest tabulation is that the Democrats will have a 2019 U.S. House majority of at least 231-198, with 6 races unresolved. That means a Democratic net gain of close to 33 seats, including two in Illinois - Peter Roskam's (R) west suburban (DuPage County) 6th District and Randy Hultgren's 14th District. Roskam lost 156,819 to 139,939 to Sean Casten (D), and Hultgren lost 142,261 to 131-819 to Lauren Underwood (D). That was clearly a rejection of the status quo, as suburban demographics have changed.

Republicans are now a 13-5 minority in the state's congressional delegation, and one more seat could flip in 2020, the 13th District Downstate seat of Rodney Davis (R), which includes Peoria, Decatur, Champaign-Urbana and Springfield. Davis won by just 2,730 votes. As recently as 2014, the delegation was split 10-8, which means a net Republican loss of 3 seats in two cycles.

Republicans boosted their U.S. Senate majority by two seats, to 53-47. But 2020 bodes ill, as Republicans hold 21 of the 33 senate seats on the ballot, and the president will be on the ballot.

COOK COUNTY: The 17-member county board is presumably under president Toni Preckwinkle's thumb, but that presumption was upended when the soda tax was repealed. Democrats had a 13-4 majority going into the 2018 election. It's now 15-2, as Republican commissioners Tim Schneider and Gregg Goslin were defeated. Preckwinkle is running for Chicago mayor, and may be gone as board president, but any opposition to new county taxes or a new soda tax has evaporated.

COOK COUNTY 9TH DISTRICT: Incumbent Peter Silvestri was first elected in 1994, and has won easy re-elections since in the 41st Ward-Park Ridge-west suburban district. His desultory 2018 opponent was Robert McPartlin, who raised no money, but Silvestri eked out a 55,248 to 50,302 win, a margin of 4,946 votes. A more active Democrat would have beaten him. Republican Commissioner Sean Morrison won 61,264 to 59,720 in his western county board 17th District.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Democrats gained Senate and House seats. Among the House winners were Rob Martwick (D) in the 19th District, who beat the well-funded Ammie Kessem (R) 21,062 to 13,715, or 60.6 percent, and John D'Amico in the 15h District, who beat Amanda Biela (R) 21,243 to 13,395, or 61.3 percent.

Incumbent Mike McAuliffe (R) was fortuitously unopposed, and won another term. Had he had a Democratic opponent, the result might have been different. He received 26,903 votes, but the district wide turnout was close to 42,000. McAuliffe can expect a massive Madigan-funded onslaught in 2020 and he won't have Rauner-connected sources to pump $3 million or more into the race, as occurred in 2016.

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