It wasn't a debate-debate, but Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner's Thursday showdown could be classified as such—the first round in a series of public mud-slinging appearances preceding November's Illinois governor election.
Incumbent Democrat Quinn and Republican challenger Rauner didn't share the stage at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park Hotel, where the Metropolitan Planning Council held its annual lunch; instead, each took separate turns taking questions on jobs, housing and the state's financial woes before an audience of hundreds who witnessed the spectacle firsthand. The attacks continued as rivals spoke to the press after the event, ripping one another to shreds.
Who won this round? Let's put it to a letter grade:
Shameless smack talk. Quinn scored big laughs on a question about housing when he referenced multi-millionaire Rauner's luxury real-estate collection, quipping: "I only own one home—I'm running against somebody with nine mansions, but I think it's important to realize that one home (for) everyday people is the No. 1 investment they'll make in their whole life." Doubling down on the income equality issue, Quinn dubbed Rauner "King Midas" for the venture capitalist's proposal to tax services rather than income which would "shift more of the tax burden onto everyday people." Countering, Rauner invoked the unfolding IDOT debacle to paint Quinn as corrupt and full of it: "Unfortunately, Gov. Quinn has a track record of being a phony on reform. He said he was going to reform the patronage at IDOT years ago, and now, as it turns out, patronage hiring under Gov. Quinn has spiked dramatically."
Quinn: C+ because he can do better than "King Midas" ... maybe hire the same folks who wrote President Obama's hilarious Washington Correspondents Dinner speech
Rauner: C because Chris Christie is the master of "Quinn-sults" and Rauner should take lessons in the art of the memorable put-down
Stage presence. Check the video below. Rauner frequently talks out of both sides of his mouth, but he speaks with a lot of authority and projects an aura of decisiveness and competence, as if he's a CEO leading a business meeting. His "smartest guy in the room" schtick enhances his persuasiveness, making some potential voters think "this guy know what he's talking about" even though his pro-business agenda might not be in their best interests. Quinn, meanwhile, looks like a deer caught in headlights. Perpetually. And his blustery awkwardness undermines his message.
Quinn: C for "get thee to a media trainer"
Rauner: A for "confident mansplaining"
Two things you didn't know about Bruce and Pat! Moderator Craig Dellimore introduced the contenders with a "fun fact" submitted by each. Rauner sometimes eats pie for breakfast! Quinn dunked a basketball (twice) back in '68. These are weak, guys. Next time give us something that's actually interesting? (I had pie for breakfast this morning and would never bring that up otherwise. Because it's not conversation-worthy.)
Quinn: B+ for the amusing mental image
Rauner: D for LAME