State Sen. Darren Bailey overwhelmed his five opponents in the Republican primary for Illinois governor on Tuesday, winning the GOP nomination by a whopping 42%.
But looming large over his candidacy is the fresh endorsement of former President Donald Trump in a state Trump lost resoundingly two years ago.
When asked in a one-on-one interview Wednesday about the possibility that the election may be a statewide referendum on Trump, Bailey said, "Well, I love to remind people of his America First agenda, because that's certainly what I stand for. And I think that can start right here in Illinois."
That's a message that plays well with the Republican base - as demonstrated by his landslide victory. But the Trump message has previously fallen flat in Illinois north of I-80.
In 2020, President Joe Biden defeated Trump in Chicago by nearly 67 points.
In Cook County outside the city, Biden won 66.39% of the vote compared to Trump's 32.04%, a 34-point margin of victory
In suburban DuPage County, Biden beat Trump by 18% in 2020. Compare that to incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's two-point margin of victory over then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in DuPage in 2018, which was in and of itself a far cry from Rauner's 2014 victory in the county, where he beat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn by 24 points.
In 2020, Trump lost Illinois statewide by a margin of 17 points - more than 1 million votes.
After seeking Trump's endorsement for months, Bailey on Wednesday looked to draw a contrast.
"At the end of the day, people are going to realize I'm not Donald Trump. I am Darren Bailey," he said. "I am a person who has been standing up for businesses, standing up for schools, our school boards, our parents, standing up against a tyrannical government that I believe has been trying to strip their freedoms from them and place heavy tax burdens on them."
Bailey's primary victory occurred against the backdrop of his inflammatory comments about Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wasted no time in warning voters against Bailey, tweeting, "Illinois, under no circumstance can we allow Darren Bailey anywhere near executive office."
But Bailey is not backing down.
"I simply speak it out. Chicago's a hellhole. I speak the truth, and then we get together and work for solutions and at the end of the day, I think people are respecting that," he said.
"Any other city in the nation, you say corrupt government, people say Chicago, Illinois," he added. "Something is wrong. Let's point the problem out and then let's get our hands dirty and fix it. That's the governor I want to be."