Nobody really was sure what Rauner was going to do once in office. "He ran as a Republican, but he also talked about State employees getting their full pensions, and he is close friends with Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Now that he is in office, Rauner is taking positions that appeal more to the national GOP base than to the Illinois GOP. Playing to one's base is something I recommend in my book "Winning Political Campaigns."
Is Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner gearing up for a Presidential run?
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Illinois has always had moderate Republican voters and moderate Republican Governors, most recently Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, and George Ryan. But Rauner, now that he is in office, is taking more conservative positions than those of his Republican predecessors.
For example, Rauner recently issued an executive order to State agencies not to collect so-called "fair share" fees from state employees not in unions but covered by union contracts.
This affects only a small number of state workers and will not impact the state budget, and fair share was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1980s. This fight looks like one designed to appeal to the more conservative national GOP base than to Illinois's generally moderate Republicans.
Rauner's recent state budget proposal cuts funding for social programs and for one of the biggest Democratic Party strongholds in the nation, Chicago, but increases funding for prison personnel.
These are popular moves with conservatives across the nation, and give Governor Rauner immediate conservative credentials. He doesn't really need them in Illinois, but he does if he plans on running for President or Vice President.
Would 2016 be too early for such a Rauner run? Not at all. Ronald Reagan had been a Governor for only two years when he ran for President in 1968. For the 2016 race, the GOP lacks a candidate with both a mainstream business background and conservative credentials. Investment banker Rauner already had the former, and now he's establishing the latter. There is no favorite for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, so the field is wide open.
Even if Rauner doesn't achieve the Presidential nomination, he could be on the GOP ticket as a Vice Presidential candidate.
If the Presidential candidate is Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio, all Senators from the South, Rauner, a Northern Governor who also is an establishment businessman, would give a ticket with any of those firebrands at the top some gravitas and balance.
Things move fast in politics today. Barack Obama was in his only term as Senator, and Sarah Palin was in her only term as Governor, when they ended up on the national ticket. Governor Rauner is certainly aware of the possibility for a meteoric rise.