CHAMPAIGN — Republican Jim Oberweis acknowledges he is in an uphill battle against three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat.
But a candidate has to dream.
"Think of how Illinois looks in January if we just elected our second Republican U.S. senator from Illinois and a Republican governor (Bruce Rauner). Illinois doesn't look so blue anymore," the GOP state senator, dairy owner, investment funds manager and multimillionaire from Sugar Grove told the Champaign County Active Seniors Republicans Monday.
He told the group a recent poll had him within 8 percentage points of Durbin.
"We're going to make some inroads in Chicago. All we have to do is get between 25 and 27 percent in Chicago and we will win statewide," he told the group. "That's what it takes. They're showing me within 8 points of Dick Durbin. If we can get the turnout up we will win."
Later, though, meeting with reporters, Oberweis said he couldn't name the source of the poll and said he was disappointed with his campaign's fundraising in the second quarter, which ended June 30.
"I am not as happy with our fundraising as I would like to see. We have raised something like a half million plus I have made significant contributions to the campaign," he said. "We need to get this to the national level. This is going to be a very expensive race if we're going to win this race. Mr. Durbin has millions and millions (more than $6 million as on March 31) in his campaign account. We have a little less than a million in our campaign account. We need some help. I can't do it alone.
"Unfortunately the way these things work is the national groups tend to put their money into those races that are very, very close and I believe that we really need to see 4 to 5 points (difference) for us to bring the national guys in in a big way."
The only recent poll of the race, take in early June by the web site Reboot Illinois, had Durbin leading Oberweis, 52 percent to 39 percent with 9 percent undecided.
Oberweis pledged the senior Republicans that he would take on four issues as a senator:
— To "repeal and replace Obamacare with a more sensible, market-driven health care reform that will restore the confidence and faith of the American people. We'll keep the preexisting conditions exclusion, insurance for young adults under 26 and competition across state lines" for health insurance;
— Working for federal term limits, although he did not specify which offices or how long;
— Making the federal government "smaller and smarter;" and
— Simplifying the federal tax code to make it "flatter," although he said he didn't favor a flat tax.
He said bringing corporate rates down would halt "inversion," the practice of American companies buying foreign firms to merge them and fold the U.S. firm into the foreign-based firm to avoid higher taxes.
Oberweis also said he would work to simplify the U.S. tax code, including eliminating many deductions. Asked if that could include homeowner's deductions Oberweis said, "We ought to look at whatever we can. I'm willing to listen and negotiate and fund common ground."
"Look," he said, "I've got a master's degree in business from the University of Chicago, a pretty good school. I've got an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, a pretty good school. It is still a real challenge for me to do my own taxes. The average person on the street ought to be able to figure their income taxes without having to spend $200 or $500 or a thousand dollars to hire a tax adviser or accountant to do it."
Oberweis said he was "willing to work with the other side to come up with the fairest, best tax policy that we can. The goal should be to bring down those marginal rates and make us as competitive and as simple as we can."
He called Durbin "a career politician," and said his career was in business and creating jobs. Oberweis has, however, run for the U.S. Senate twice before, for governor once and for the U.S. House once. He lost every election except the 2012 contest for state Senate in a district in the Fox River area west of Chicago.