There's T minus 12 days to go 'til Election Day, and no clear winner in the close battle between Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner. Both men are in survival mode. The stakes are high. This cash-strapped state's future hangs in the balance. Cockroaches run amok.
Without further ado, This Week in Mudslinging:
Quinn vs. Rauner. The nemeses ripped one another to shreds in their final debate before Election Day, firing off the muddiest round of Quinn-sults and Rauner rips thus far in this knock-down, drag-out fight. Rauner, a finger-pointing "mansplainer" onstage, repeatedly bashed the incumbent Democrat as a "failure" and a "phony," to which Quinn responded: "He's a champion name caller." (If this were a kindergarten playground, Rauner would get a time out. Then he would try to buy his way out of time-out, by donating millions to build a new charter school for over-privileged children in Lincoln Park.) The multi-millionaire GOP investor then dropped his braggiest campaign ad yet, touting all of his mainstream media endorsements. Next came results of a Tribune poll showing the two rivals in "dead heat" with Rauner inching two percentage points ahead of Quinn, 45-43, thanks to growing support from white suburban collar-county women voters who tend toward the fiscally conservative and the socially moderate. Can Quinn out-campaign Mr. Mansplain heading into the home stretch? With the outcome in "toss-up" territory, the governor got some back-up this week from Democratic power brokers like President Barack Obama and ex-President Bill Clinton, slinging mud on his behalf in Chicago (where Quinn has a firm grip), as well as Veep Joe Biden, traveling north to Vernon Hills to stump in the battleground 10th district. Negative ads abounded.
Dave McKinney vs. the Sun-Times and Rauner. Sending shockwaves throughout the incestuous Chicago media-verse, McKinney—a veteran political reporter at the liberal-leaning Sun-Times—resigned in protest after brass allegedly cowed to pressure from Rauner's PR team to kill a controversial story he was working on and "yanked" him off his beat. In a letter addressed to Sun-Times owner Michael Ferro, whom he blamed for a "chilling effect in the newsroom," the journalist lamented that the candidate's aides had forwarded to higher-ups an error-ridden "opposition-research hit piece" falsely suggesting that his wife, a Democratic political consultant, was collaborating on the story. The final straw for McKinney? The paper's decision to break its no-endorsement policy, endorse Rauner over Quinn and support "the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared as a defamatory attack on me." Now he might sue, but in this case, a legal victory is an uphill battle. For more on this insidery yet significant media scandal, see my colleague Mark Anderson's excellent essay "Sun-Times Squanders Trust Right When City, State Need It The Most."