(Chicago) – Downstate Illinois is getting a big chunk of time from gubernatorial candidates in the 2014 campaign’s final weekend.
With polls showing that Republican Downstate dominance somewhat slipping in the race for Illinois governor, both Governor Pat Quinn and GOP challenger Bruce Rauner are or will be in the region this weekend, starting on Friday.
Quinn was in Southern Illinois on Friday in his official role as governor handing out state grant money for “investments” in various communities.
The governor started his day at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Funk Library in Urbana at approximately 1:00 p.m. to announce “investments” in higher education and agriculture.
Quinn’s schedule put him at the National Guard Armory in Mount Vernon at 2:30 p.m. to announce an “investment in recreation” and at Southern Illinois University’s Science Building in Edwardsville at 4:00 p.m. to “kick-off construction on a major education facility”.
The governor has been busily announcing new “investments” and handing millions of dollars in state grants in the last few weeks in politically friendly areas and in front of sympathetic constituencies, drawing the belated ire of Illinois Republicans.
Meanwhile, Rauner will barnstorm through 14 Illinois cities over the next three days – 11 of which are outside the Cook and Collar Counties.
On Saturday, Rauner will be in Southern Illinois travelling to Quincy, Lawrenceville, Carmi, Harrisburg, and Marion. U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) will join Rauner and GOP Lt. Governor nominee Evelyn Sanguinetti at get-out-the-vote rallies.
On Sunday, in addition to stops in Chicago and suburban Hickory Hills, Rauner will be in East Alton being joined by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Shimkus and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock will host the GOP ticket in Peoria.
Finally, on Monday, ex-Governor Jim Edgar will join Rauner for a full-day of campaigning in Bloomington, Springfield, Moline, Rockford, and Lincolnshire.
Recent polling has shown that Rauner has been underperforming the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee, Bill Brady, who captured 59% of the Downstate vote. Rauner is drawing as little as 45% up to 53% in surveys.
Rauner’s poorer showing Downstate is partly reflected by the presence of Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Chad Grimm on the November 4 ballot. According to a recent Illinois Observer poll, Grimm is drawing 8.5% of the Downstate vote, a fact that is hurting the GOP nominee.
Rauner’s weekend schedule of stops in Southern, Central, Western and Northern Illinois is the starkest signal yet of the concerns by his campaign about the GOP base. The wealthy venture capitalist had intended to pry a higher than average share of votes out of Chicago from disenchanted Democrats to build a winning coalition. That strategy depended on support from a robust GOP base in Southern and Central Illinois in order to free him to focus his energy on poaching votes in Chicago.
By spending the final weekend outside Chicago, Rauner reveals that he still needs to close the deal with more conservative, Downstate voters, particularly conservative organized labor members and social conservatives, before Tuesday.
In fact, a new poll of 2,300 likely voters taken on October 27-28 for The Illinois Observer shows that Quinn is drawing 16% of self-identified Republicans while Rauner is taking 13%.
Quinn’s presence in Southern Illinois on Friday equally signals that the Democrat is feeling confident enough about his Chicago base to be able to arrange his official schedule to squeeze some additional goodwill out of a few, remaining undecided Downstate voters.
(*Note to Political Insiders: The Illinois Observer also offers our exclusive, subscriber-only e-newsletter – The Insider – to, well, Illinois political insiders. Each Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 a.m. The Insider, whose Consulting Editor is Capitol Fax Publisher Rich Miller, arrives in e-mail boxes with the choicest Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago political gossip, insider information, and news tips. For more information and a free, 4-week trial subscription to The Insider, please go here).