I can’t get Bruce Rauner on the phone. Apparently, I’m not alone.
The Republican Rauner operates from his own Rose Garden. Though he’s never run for elective office, he’s rich enough to plant a garden of his own. And decide who will enter.
It’s not that we haven’t seen this movie before. There is a litany of gazillionaires who decided it was their time, after making tons of money, to govern. Ron Gidwitz, Blair Hull, Jack Ryan, Jim Oberweis, Andy McKenna and Al Hofeld come to mind.
Rauner may be the most interesting of the bunch, having created a steadily growing impression of inevitability going into the March primary. The word “impression” is important. All candidates work hard to paint a portrait of themselves that voters can easily digest.
In Rauner’s case, an excellent sport coat has been replaced by an impeccable Carhart jacket. Cowboys I know in Livingston, Mont., where the venture capitalist has one of eight homes, regularly wear this sturdy workman/rancher jacket. Woven out of canvas and warm as a woodstove, Carharts aren’t even seasoned until they’ve been stomped on by horses or run over by manure-spreaders for 20 years.
Rauner, dressed in Carhart or vest, tells us in videos that it’s time to “shake up Springfield” by electing a non-politician.
Barack Obama also claimed the mantle of outsider. So did Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Both ran for the U.S. Senate after extensive connection-building with — you know — politicians. These guys politicked their whole lives in one way or another, in the artful avenues of Ivy-league schools, banks or law firms, but argued they were really “outsiders.”
Let’s talk instead about truly talking to voters.
Not through press releases. Or ads. Or, in a summer photo-op at the Illinois State Fair, by driving up in a Harley but not answering a straightforward question about helmet laws.
Answer the question.
Answer the phone.
State Sen. Bill Brady, the only one of the four GOP candidates who supported the recent, painful pension reform deal, picked up his cellphone the day after Christmas while driving to a family wedding out of state to talk about the coming election.
As did state Sen. Kirk Dillard as he was spending his last Christmas holiday afternoon with his family before once again hitting the campaign trail.
As did state Treasurer Dan Rutherford from his office in Pontiac, Ill., the day after Christmas.
It’s miserable to talk to the press anytime. But candidates do it because they are asking for public support even when they hate the questions.
This summer, Bill Daley did it. He jumped into the Democratic primary race against Pat Quinn. And then jumped out. But he held full-bore press conferences each time. No pre-scripting. He despised many of the questions and a fair number of the questioners. But he took every last one of them.
That’s what you do when you apply for a job.
Even if the job is for governor.