Obama Illinois Re-election Strategy

Jeff  Carter
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Posted: May 15, 2012 12:01 AM

Obama came out in favor of gay marriage last week. It’s all a part of the strategy formulated in the 2010 Illinois gubernatorial election. We will see if the strategy works nationwide.

Illinois is standing on the proverbial financial cliff. In 2010, the website Illinois is Broke gave Illinoisians the unvarnished details of the problems with the Illinois budget. Of course, any Republican starts at least ten points down in Illinois simply because of the Democratic machine and the fact Illinois is populated with true believers that think big government and socialism work.

But 2010 nationwide was a different kind of election. The Tea Party energized people that had sat on the sidelines. Fiscal conservatives were elected all over the country and the Republicans made gains in both the House and Senate. State legislatures that hadn’t been controlled by Republicans for over a century made the switch.

In Illinois, it was business as usual.

Republican Candidate Bill Brady won the land mass vote. Out of Illinois counties, he carried all but three.

Why didn’t he win?

The aforementioned machine. Downstate Madison County is infamous as the place personal injury attorneys go to file lawsuits. It hasn’t been Republican since Lincoln…..and Cook County hasn’t voted Republican since 1920. Brady won the land mass vote, lost the popular vote 46.79%-45.94%. It could be argued if Scott Lee Cohen didn’t run, Quinn would have received his 3.64%.

It was no secret that Illinois was in dire financial straits. Why did Quinn win? On one hand, if you were a government worker, or in some way had a job affected by the machine (there are a lot of those), you voted your pocketbook which was to keep the government gravy train rolling. That’s why national statistics showing a declining tax base are alarming to fiscal conservatives. Once more people are on the government dole than off, it’s over for the productive class.

Second, Quinn used the abortion issue to win. Brady was/is a staunch social conservative in the mode of Rick Santorum. While he was on message on state finances, he was on the wrong electoral side of the abortion debate in Illinois. Most Illinoisians are pro choice in some way-irrespective of party. Plenty of pro choice voters voted social issues ahead of financial ones.

For candidates, it’s very hard to illustrate emotionally how badly government’s financial problems will be for individuals. Individuals figure they can worm their way around them. Government silently takes more of their income through hidden user fees and stealth tax increases.

On social issues, it’s super easy to find the emotional hot buttons to motivate voters. It’s also easy to use Orwellian wordspeak to twist the real issues. “Freedom of choice” sounds like a movement from 1776, not 2012.

Obama is following this playbook on gay marriage. While I am loathe to quote Andrew Sullivan on a conservative issue, he did dig up this memo. Nationwide, and every time it’s put to a vote, gay marriage fails. Yet, polling has changed over time so more people favor gay marriage today than did ten years ago. Obama is trying to energize the switch and make it part of the national conversation so by August he has a social campaign issue other than abortion to drive a wedge through independents. Unlike Illinois candidate Brady, Romney isn’t seen as a hard right social conservative. That allows the financial debate to come to the fore.

If the vote were held today, Romney would win on the social issue of gay marriage. Obama is hoping he can change opinions so when the vote is held in November people forget about voting their pocketbook. Then in January he can pick it, and empty most of it into government coffers.

UPDATE

Ann Althouse has some constructive thoughts on the gay marriage issue as it pertains to election strategy and outcomes.