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Capitol Fax - Rich Miller

Ives beat Rauner in debate, but not many people know it

Few Illinoisans paying attention ahead of primary

Few Illinoisans paying attention ahead of primary

A little perspective may be in order. Lots of political junkies, media types, etc., went ga-ga after last Monday’s Chicago Tribune editorial board face-off between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and state Rep. Jeanne Ives.

By the next morning, 28,000 Facebook users had viewed the first segment of the debate. Several more likely watched the forum on the Tribune’s website, although that video feed started late and had some streaming problems. Both video feeds conked out a couple of times, so just 7,500 watched Part Two on Facebook, while 6,000 watched Part Three by the following morning.

It’s important to remember that average voters pay almost infinitely less attention to state politics as they do national politics, when half the country typically tunes in to debates. Twenty-eight thousand Facebook views sounds pretty respectable, and it is, but about 820,000 people voted in the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary. And Facebook has come under fire in recent months for counting a video as being “viewed” after a mere 3 seconds.

That’s not to say Rep. Ives didn’t help herself with her almost complete thumping of Gov. Rauner. She most certainly did. She won that debate hands down, and Rauner’s supporters have to be flabbergasted at the way he handled himself.

Personally, I was most amused at how the governor kept telling Ives to stop interrupting him because it was rude, and then in almost the next breath, he’d interrupt her when she said negative things about him. 

The same man who has spent the past 3 years in office painting everyone around him as corrupt and/or incompetent finally got publicly called out to his face. I’d bet good money that a sizable chunk of those Facebook viewers were Democrats who tuned in to see whether Ives could whup the man. They likely weren’t disappointed.

The editorial board meeting received a bunch of very intense media coverage, and Ives’ supporters will certainly be talking up her performance in person and on social media for the next several days. There will be a multiplier effect.

Two days after their joint appearance, I gave a speech to about 75 people who were in Springfield for a state legislative conference. Just by dint of being at that conference, those folks demonstrated that they were interested in state government.

So, I asked them who had watched the debate. Just two people raised their hands. I asked who had read or seen news coverage of the debate. Only about 10 people raised their hands.

Remember, these folks were in Springfield for a legislative conference. Their interest in state stuff is far greater than the average Illinoisan’s.

It’s entirely possible, though, that Ives’ performance could help prime the pump to bring in more cash from small and large donors.

And speaking of money, Rep. Ives reported receiving $500,000 from former Rauner supporter Dick Uihlein last week. By the end of the week, the Ives campaign said it would start running two different TV ads.

One of Ives’ new ads is a real doozy, featuring various people “thanking” Gov. Rauner for things like “paying for my abortions” and also has a man dressed as a woman saying: “Thank you for signing legislation that lets me use the girl’s bathroom.”

A week of Chicago broadcast TV ads costs about $660,000, and Illinois has a ton of other media markets, from Rockford all the way down to the Kentucky border.

It’s not yet known whether Uihlein will give Ives any additional money. Ives ended 2017 with $404,000 in the bank and, including Uihlein’s check, has reported raising another $619,000 in January. So she has some money, but it won’t last long if she wants to go big.

The last public poll in this race showed that 68 percent of likely Republican primary voters had never even heard of Jeanne Ives. Gov. Rauner was leading Ives by 45 points in that survey, and he is refusing to ever debate her again. So, it’s gonna take a lot more than a few thousand Facebook views, a day of positive earned media coverage, and a million bucks to put Rep. Ives over the top. A lot more.

I’m not saying it can’t happen. Weirder stuff has most certainly happened in politics. I’m just saying people should take a breath here and see how this all plays out before making any sort of predictions.

Note to readers: Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and