Jim Dey | All's well in Pritzkerland — except that Madigan thing

Jim Dey | All's well in Pritzkerland — except that Madigan thing

As he approaches the November general election, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker has everything going his way.

The polls show him with a solid lead over Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner. Political analysts, including the high-profile Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, have moved the contest into the "likely Democrat" category.

Pritzker is so hot that those predicting his impending victory extend far beyond the geographic boundaries of the United States.

The India Post in New Delhi invited astrologist Jatin Patel to divine what the future holds for the Chicago billionaire who has never held public office.

"Both candidates have strong charts, but the transit of planets should be a very decisive factor for the ultimate outcome," Patel foreshadowed. "On Nov. 6, 2018, the big difference of Saturn close to natal Saturn of Mr. Pritzker and exalted Rahu and Ketu at birth give him the edge. Mr. Pritzker, in my opinion, would prevail."

Pritzker's comfortable lead explains a milquetoast campaign style in which he says Rauner is a "failure," but little else of substance. Indeed, Pritzker has not made much news since his March win in the Democratic Party primary and shortly thereafter, when he spoke boldly of his plans to implement major new social-welfare programs and increase state income taxes to pay for them.

So, in Pritzkerland, all looks well — the only thing left to do is count down the days and then count up the votes that will put him in the governor's chair.

Except ... for one thing.

There's that Madigan thing Rauner keeps pointing out to voters.

Madigan is Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, the real power behind the throne in Illinois. He's the extremely unpopular guy who stopped Rauner's entire legislative program cold for three-plus years, and he's the guy who will implement the ambitious one proposed by Pritzker.

Rauner keeps pointing out — ad nauseum — that what's good for Pritzker's political patron Madigan — more power in the form of one-party Democratic rule in Illinois — will not be good for the people of Illinois.

Pritzker has mostly ignored the attacks, suggesting that he's barely familiar with this Madigan fella.

But an advertisement recently released by the Pritzker campaign shows he must have more cause to be worried about the public's perception of his tight political bonds with Madigan than he would like.

The ad features Pritzker and some puppies, and the script reads:

"Narrator: Mike Madigan hates puppies. Mike Madigan hates sunshine. J.B. Pritzker and Mike Madigan are Democrats, so J.B. Pritzker must hate puppies and sunshine.

"J.B. Pritzker: It's ridiculous. Bruce Rauner is a failure, and he blames everyone but himself. As a businessman, I've helped create thousands of jobs by bringing people together to solve problems and get results, and that's what I'll do as governor. And for the record, I love puppies."

Judging from the way Pritzker handles the pups, it's not clear if he likes them or likes to eat them.

But his point — don't believe my opponent's silliness — reflects a tried-and-true debate technique — reductio ad absurdum (Latin for "reduction to absurdity"), where a debater caricatures his opponent's arguments and then argues, credibly, of course, that the caricatures have no merit.

In response to the Pritzker ad, Madigan's longtime spokesman, Steve Brown, joined in the mockery.

"... there's no record of (Madigan) hating puppies and sunshine," Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times.

But Rauner never said either Madigan or Pritzker are hostile to puppies and/or sunshine. The only source for that charge is Pritzker's ad.

What Rauner has said, to the point that some people are tired of hearing it, is that if Madigan becomes Pritzker's legislative wingman, they'll continue digging deeper into the state's already gaping financial hole.

So far, that's a criticism Pritzker has chosen to ignore.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-351-5369.

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