Rauner on the ropes
A public opinion poll shows the governor's long political battle with House Speaker Michael Madigan is taking a heavy toll.
The people of Illinois continue to be angry — bordering on enraged — over the shockingly inept manner by which its top officials run the state.
Who says? "They" say?
Another public-opinion poll — this one conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale — shows that Republican Rauner and Democrat Madigan are held in low esteem by the people of Illinois.
The poll indicates respondents gave Rauner a disapproval rating of 58 percent compared with an approval rating of 36 percent.
That's bad. But the ratings for Madigan were even worse. Poll results show 61 percent of respondents disapprove of Madigan while just 26 percent approve.
The poll was conducted from March 4-11. It sampled the opinions of 1,000 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. Sixty percent of the interviews were conducted on cellphones.
Public-opinion polls provide snapshots in time of what people are thinking about the issues. Obviously, public opinion can change with events.
But Illinois residents have been angry — and have good reason to be angry — about the way state government is run for a long time.
Just two weeks ago, another poll indicated that 81 percent of the respondents believe Illinois is headed in the wrong direction compared with just 11 percent who believe it's doing well.
That poll was conducted for the Illinois Policy Institute, a free-market think tank, by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates. It surveyed the opinions of 600 likely voters from Feb. 28 to March 1 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The IPI poll also indicated that 79 percent of respondents believe the state needs major structural reform before passing any tax increase.
The results of one poll follow the other because people angry about the state of the state of Illinois automatically focus on Rauner, the state's chief executive, and Madigan, the political powerhouse who determines what legislation does — and does not — win approval in the General Assembly.
Since nothing is getting done — the state is well into its second year without a budget — and the state's finances give new meaning to the word "horrendous," the public blames the most prominent political players.
Madigan clearly is more unpopular than Rauner. But it's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good. So Madigan, master tactician that he is, has to know that the poll is much worse for Rauner than it is for him.
Rauner has to run statewide in a Democrat-dominated state. His spokesmen can say, as they have, that Rauner is focused on getting results, not public-opinion polls. But since he's getting no results in his dealings with the Democrat-controlled Legislature, his poll numbers are sagging.
The situation is different for Madigan. He's never cared much about public opinion statewide because he's never had to care.
He runs for re-election in a small Chicago House district that he rules like a feudal king. He has an iron grip over members of his House caucus. He's basically beyond the reach of the power of public opinion.
These poll numbers, in effect, validate Madigan's strategy in dealing with the Republican who ousted Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2014 election.
Rauner, who comes from the private sector, ran on a pledge to shake up Springfield, smash the corrupt and failed status quo, put measures in place to boost the state's flagging economy and take meaningful steps to improve the state's failing finances.
But Madigan has blocked him at every turn, refusing to negotiate a compromise on the budget and reform issues the governor has proposed. Even now as Democratic and Republican members of the Illinois Senate try to work out a "grand bargain" compromise to break the current logjam, Madigan waits quietly in the House and gives no sign of what he's thinking.
What he's basically thinking is that if he can replace Rauner with a Democrat in the 2018 election, he'll be able to maintain the political status quo that serves him so well.
That's why bad poll results for Rauner are really bad news. Bad poll results for Madigan are a mere irritant, but one that vindicates his strategy of rejecting virtually everything the governor proposes.