President Obama loses his home state
While Republicans are rightly celebrating the re-election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the surprising election of a Republican governor, Larry Hogan, in deep blue Maryland, the delightfully (to me and perhaps you) shocking Republican governor capture of Obama's dark midnight-blue state of Illinois has received relatively little notice.
Bruce Rauner, a wealthy Republican businessman with no elected office experience, defeated longtime Illinois Democrat officeholder Governor Pat Quinn. Quinn, the state's former lieutenant governor, slipped into the governor's office when his predecessor was convicted and jailed on multiple corruption charges, a common fate for Illinois's governors, and then went on to win election on his own. While governing a state that is broke, with one of the highest per capita unfunded government pensions, losing jobs and businesses – problems that preceded him – Quinn raised income taxes and advocated a higher minimum wage.
But no matter. With Quinn trying for another term, both Obama and his wife Michelle flew into town on separate trips to support him, praise him, and oh yes, raise lots of money for him from the hated wealthy while decrying the income gap. All of these efforts seemed so effective that even the famed-for-accuracy Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog predicted a Quinn victory.
But this election cycle, the Obama charm, such as it is – or was – just didn't work. While in eight years Obama zoomed from obscure local Illinois state senator to the more prominent senator from Illinois to president, handily winning elections along the way, in this cycle, the Obama aura evaporated. Except for Illinois's notorious C(r)ook County, which encompasses Chicago, Rauner carried every county in the state to win a close election. A day after the election, after realizing that Illinois's many deceased residents wouldn't come through for him, Quinn reluctantly conceded.
Thanks to extreme gerrymandering, the Illinois legislature is solidly Democratic, so Rauner will still have troubles passing his agenda.
But Rauner and his lieutenant governor Evelyn Sanguinetti – a female of Hispanic heritage for those who notice these things – are tough! Tough enough to win the president's home state.