Less than a week after Politico switched its projected outcome of of Illinois' gubernatorial race from "toss-up" to "leans Republican," The Rothenberg Report is following suit to tweak its rating to favor GOP challenger Bruce Rauner over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn.
"Public polling in the race has been spotty and from less-than-reliable outfits. But private polling at the statewide and congressional district level also shows the governor is unpopular, particularly outside of Chicago," writes Nathan L. Gonzales at Roll Call's Rothenblog.
"Democrats’ best strategy appears to be to turn GOP nominee Bruce Rauner, a wealthy businessman, into 'Mitt Romney on steroids.' It could work, but to call this race a tossup right now would be understating Quinn’s standing in the race," adds Gonzales, giving Rauner a "narrow advantage" in the blue state.
The Winnetka venture capitalist is currently on vacation at his Montana ranch, taking some time off from the non-stop campaign trail. Earlier this week, the candidate defended himself after the Chicago Sun-Times published a splashy Sunday front-page story on his legal investments in five holdings companies in the no-tax Cayman Islands. He invested in three linked to GTCR, the private equity firm he founded three decades ago and led until he stepped down in 2012 to run for governor.
"At no point have I tried to avoid taxes or done these things that they're trying to spin," he said. "GTCR has its own structure for just a couple of investments. When they invest in overseas companies, they set up that particular structure. It doesn't impact our personal tax rate whatsoever."
That didn't stop a Quinn spokesperson from sniping, "Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner doesn't just use exotic methods to dodge taxes — he even uses exotic, offshore locations."
Despite his financial skeletons, Rauner continues to gain momentum here amid Illinoisians' growing frustrations with government and especially Quinn. While the governor retains a tenuous grip on Chicago, his popularity elsewhere is in the tank and a pile-up of corruption investigations aren't exactly helping his re-election efforts.
Rauner's also gaining on the campaign finance front. Last week he poured $1.5 million of his own money into his war chest, bringing his total self-donations to nearly $10 million. (Cue Team Quinn's accusations that Rauner is attempting to "buy" the governor's seat.)
As of July, Quinn cited more cash in his arsenal than Rauner -- $11.7 million to Rauner's $7.2 million -- but has raised less money than his opponent in recent months. In the time-frame spanning April through June, Rauner collected $8 million while Quinn brought in $3.7 million.