Illinois Governor's Race Spending Could Have a Negative Impact

The winner of the potentially record-setting contest could face political fallout

More than $79 million has been spent since January by candidates Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker in the Illinois governor’s race. The spending orgy though could leave the November winner hurting for political capital, according to NBC News' Political Director Chuck Todd.

The already nasty battle - played out in campaign commercials - could harm the winner when it comes to governing, he said.

The unprecedented amount of money being spent in the state’s key race is drawing national attention.

"What I’m trying to figure, what’s October going to look like? Are they just going to buy TV stations and air ads 24-hours a day?" asks Todd, the moderator of Meet The Press.

From January through the end of June, the Pritzker campaign spent more than $54 million dollars, according to state records. Rauner checked in with $25.5 million.

The billionaire self-funded Democrat and the near-billionaire Republican incumbent could top the $200-million-dollar mark in combined spending when all is said and done - a figure that would break records and show just how things have changed.

In 1998, George Ryan spent just over $13 million to win the governor’s race against Democrat Glenn Poshard.

Four election cycles later, Rauner spent more than $58 million in 2014. Now Pritzker has matched that in just six months.

It was Rauner who ushered in this era of big spending. Four years ago, Rauner gave his campaign $41 million, according to state campaign finance records. Now, with deeper pockets, Pritzker is following suit.

Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann and Libertarian Party candidate Kash Jackson are also seeking the state’s highest office. But their fundraising and spending pale in comparison to that of Pritzker and Rauner.

Asked if there is a tipping point for American voters when it comes to the richest of candidates winning political office, Todd said one answer comes from California where Gray Davis defeated two millionaires in the 1999 Democratic primary en route to becoming governor.

"He was sort of able to use that idea, 'Are you tired of millionaires on their hobby horse?'" Todd said.

Don’t look for that to happen in Illinois, Todd said, but do look for voters to get politically exasperated.

"I have a feeling that by October, voters are going to be deciding between the candidate they hate and the candidate they loathe,” he said.

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