March 8, 2022

This week marks the official start of the 2022 campaign season as candidates begin to file their petitions for elected office. It is important to emphasize that the 2022 election will be a referendum on Governor Pritzker and his performance and things don’t look good for the incumbent.  

In 2018, candidate Pritzker ran against then-Governor Bruce Rauner who was so unpopular he barely won the Republican primary. The Republican Party division was further driven by a newly created “Conservative” party whose candidate spent nearly $5 million to garner 4% of the vote in the General Election.

In the campaign, Pritzker ran against President Trump as much as he did Governor Rauner. It was a good strategy at the time because in a Paul Simon Institute poll from September of 2018, 54% of likely Illinois voters said Trump’s record in the office made them less likely to vote for a Republican.

Pritzker entered the race with these local and national winds at his back and spent $170 million to make the election a referendum on Rauner and Trump. No one has ever spent more to become Governor. 

Even with all this going for him, Pritzker won with an underwhelming 54.5% of the vote.

For his 2022 reelection, the script has been flipped. It is now Pritzker who faces national headwinds.  46% of Illinois voters disapprove of President Biden, according to a March CIVIQS poll. A drastic slide from the 57.5% who voted for him a year and a half ago.

If the national environment won’t help Pritzker, will the local? 

It isn’t likely. Especially on the heels of the indictment of his political ally, former Speaker of the House Mike Madigan. 

Just four years ago, Gov. Pritzker funneled over $7 million to Speaker Madigan. Madigan’s spokesperson said, “(Madigan and Pritzker) spent a lot of time planning campaign strategy and planning campaign operations.”

The Madigan indictment has prompted more questions than answers from Gov. Pritzker who is working overtime to distance himself from Madigan and his past praise of him. 

Back in 2018, voters rejected Trump and Rauner; they didn’t embrace Pritzker. 

If The Princess Bride is right and the most famous classic blunder is getting involved in a land war in Asia, a close second for politicians is to assume a mandate when you don’t have one. 

Pritzker fell victim to this trap and governed as if he won in a landslide. With one eye on a future Presidential run, he set out to make Illinois the most progressive state in the nation.

But Illinois voters don’t want an uncompromising ideology. They want real-world results. That is why a poll from The Illinoize showed Pritzker with a 50% approval rating and maybe why the sitting Governor has already poured $90 million into his campaign coffers.

An honest look at the problems families and small businesses face shows they aren’t materially better off than they were three years ago. 

Illinoisans pay one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, even without taking into account the taxes necessary to pay for the $110,000 in government pension debt per household, as detailed in a Wirepoints’ report. 

On public safety, there were 800 murders in Chicago in 2021, up from 561 in 2018. 

Pritzker has failed to keep the costs down of everyday goods. For example, the average price of a gallon of gas in the Chicagoland area is up to an astounding $4.61, up from $2.54 in November 2018. Pritzker made things worse by championing the largest gas tax hike in state history. 

Voters are feeling the pain and want something different. In the same Illinoize poll, 67% of voters disapproved of the state’s approach to crime, and 60% disapproved of the approach on taxes.

Illinoisans already rejected Pritzker’s cornerstone policy when they were given a chance to vote on his graduated income tax last year. The tax lost by 6.5% while Biden Illinois won by 17%. A clear repudiation of Pritzker’s big tax and spend approach.

With this track record of results, Gov. Pritzker can’t go to voters in 2022 and offer more of the same. 

His best hope for winning is to make the election about his opponent. He can’t run on his record, so he’ll have to make the Republican alternative so unacceptable that voters go with him by default. Just like he did in 2018.

Over the next eight months, Gov. Pritzker will camp out in a television studio and record millions of dollars worth of ads. He will try to make this a campaign about President Trump and about Republicans’ so-called “extreme positions.”

He’ll work to frame the election on anything other than his failure to deliver tangible results for Illinois families and small businesses.

The question of 2022 is: has Pritzker done enough to win, regardless of who his opponent is?

Not just any Republican candidate can win. To win, the Republican candidate will have to offer an action plan to alleviate the concerns of ordinary voters while offering a vision and biography that can withstand Pritzker’s attack ads. 

The national environment and Pritzker’s electoral weakness provide a golden opportunity for Republicans up and down the ballot to earn voters’ trust and deliver tangible results for ordinary Illinoisans. 


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