Miller: Brady stays well to the right in seeking GOP nomination again
By Rich Miller September 22, 2013 5:26PM
State Sen. Bill Brady, Republican candidate for governor.
Updated: October 24, 2013 6:16AM
Let’s flash back to a poll I commissioned last month. The Aug. 13 Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll surveyed 1,102 likely voters in the March Republican primary election.
The poll found that 74 percent of Republicans wanted their gubernatorial candidates to choose a running mate who was “more conservative” than the candidate. Another 18 percent said ideology made no difference, and 7 percent said they wanted a more liberal running mate.
The poll also showed that, by strong margins, various GOP factions wanted a more conservative candidate for lieutenant governor — 73 percent of Republican women; 75 percent of men; 79 percent of seniors, who tend to dominate GOP primaries; 77 percent of collar-county Republicans; 73 percent of suburban Cook and downstate Republicans; and 69 percent of Chicago Republicans.
As you probably know, Illinois has changed its law on how lieutenant governor candidates are selected. Previously, they ran independent of the governor candidates in the primary. Now, candidates for governor are required to choose a running mate before they begin circulating nominating petitions.
Fast-forward to today. So far, the gubernatorial candidate who has by far heeded this poll result the most is state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who is, socially anyway, the most conservative candidate in the governor’s race.
Brady did not try to “soften” his ideological stances by picking a more moderate candidate. Unlike state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), who chose a state representative as his running mate, Brady went outside the party establishment and selected a former mayor of a wealthy suburb in Maria Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has spent the past few years running a statewide, Tea Party-affiliated organization for Adam Andrzejewski, who wasn’t a great statewide candidate for governor in 2010 but did build a large list of devoted Tea Party activists, partly because of Rodriguez, his executive director.
Brady was outspent by more than 7-1 by Andy McKenna in the 2010 gubernatorial primary and almost 3-1 by Dillard. Despite some polling that showed McKenna leading near the end, his support turned out to be paper thin, and he dropped like a rock in the last few days as the election became “real” to voters.
Dillard was hurt badly in the closing days of that campaign by McKenna’s attacks on him for cutting a TV commercial backing Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
But nobody so much as touched Brady, and Republican primary voters turned to him at almost literally the last minute. The only poll I know of that caught Brady’s late surge was a privately commissioned We Ask America poll taken the weekend before the 2010 primary.
Brady hadn’t been tainted by hard-core attacks, and he was ideologically “pure” enough for Republican primary voters, so he ended up being the default choice. Chicago political reporters, taken completely by surprise, raced down Interstate 55 to Bloomington on primary night to cover Brady’s victory rally.
Despite Dillard’s rightward lurch since losing that 2010 primary, Brady is still considered the more “authentic” conservative. And his choice of an outside Tea Party leader as a running mate will almost certainly help him lock down the conservative branch of the party.
The difference between now and then, of course, is that Brady won the 2010 primary and has to be taken seriously by the other candidates.
He won’t get a pass between now and March by the big-spending Bruce Rauner or Dillard or state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. This is why Brady’s well-known inability, even reluctance, to raise big money could hurt him badly.
But the idea for Brady in 2014 is still the same as 2010. Stay to the right, stay focused on painting his opponents as being far to his left, pick a running mate who bolsters his conservative credentials and try to make the electorate believe that he’s the most “electable” Republican.
I personally never make election predictions. The latest polling has Brady leading the pack, although the top three (Brady, Rutherford, Rauner) were all within 7 points of each other.
What I will say is that Brady appears to have a plan that deals with Republican primary voters as they are, and it could very well work. More money would help, however.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.