A radio interview with Richard Irvin gave his main GOP opponents a chance to pounce

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I was a little flabbergasted to see last week that Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin told a blatant lie on a Southern Illinois radio station. But what happened after that helps us see how the Republican primary will unfold over the next four and a half months.

If you follow my blog, CapitolFax.com, you know that Irvin flatly told WJPF radio host Tom Miller, “I’ve always been opposed to warrants” when Miller asked what he thought of the plan. of Governor JB Pritzker to phase out the state’s mask mandate. . Irvin added that Pritzker “makes his decisions based on politics.”

It turns out, however, that Irvin was a strong supporter of state terms as mayor of Aurora. He warned business owners in his city in September 2020 to ensure their customers wore masks and threatened to impose fines on violators.

A few months earlier, he praised the governor’s COVID-19 response, which included stay-at-home orders and mask mandates. Even then, at the height of the first wave, those mandates were openly criticized by some Republicans. After noting that the governor had called him the night before to explain his latest virus mitigation plan, Irvin told reporters in the area that he had pledged Aurora’s support “to do our part to help ‘statewide effort’.

I regularly listen to Tom Miller’s radio interviews. He is intelligent, polite and non-confrontational, qualities which attract important guests from all political backgrounds. For my purposes, Miller (unrelated) generally puts his interview subjects at ease, which can often get them to say what they really mean. It is priceless.

I knew Irvin had appeared on Miller’s show, but I didn’t get a chance to listen to the recording online until I received a press release from the Democratic Governors Association titled: ” Richard Irvin does a full 180 on COVID warrants.”

After listening to the interview and watching a video of Irvin’s press conference, then reading an attached report from Chicago’s ABC-7, I wrote a blog post and moved on.

Later, however, I was struck by how amateurish the other Republican gubernatorial candidates truly are. Major campaigns in a major state like Illinois typically have people tasked with monitoring their opponents’ public comments for the kind of prevarications Irvin was caught in last week. Only Irvin was called not by Republicans, but by Democrats.

That Democrats are interested in arresting Irvin before he makes it to the general election is no surprise at all. He is (so far) a successful African-American mayor of the state’s second-largest city. And while he will win over some generally pro-Democratic black voters if he succeeds in qualifying for the primaries and general election, his presence on the ballot could well lower the very large black turnout, which would hurt not only Pritzker but the rest of the statewide Democratic ticket.

The same people running Irvin’s campaign did just that in 2014. Enough black voters stayed out of the polls that, in part because of it, Republican Bruce Rauner beat incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn.

Rauner has also done better in the hugely important suburbs than Quinn expected, and Irvin supporters hope their candidate’s anti-crime messaging, along with a commitment to balancing things between government and progressive interests, will help him do well in the suburbs.

‘Don’t underestimate how important it is to make white suburban women feel comfortable voting for a campaign full of dog whistles,’ a black Democratic strategist, who isn’t usually one of the people, recently warned. paranoid.

So I guess Republican candidates feel they don’t need to invest in research and opposition trackers as long as they know the Democrats will do all the heavy lifting for them.

But in this particular case, almost all of those Republicans can honestly say, unlike Irvin, “I’ve always been against mandates.” They really missed a major opportunity to pounce.

And because they haven’t built this crucial campaign infrastructure, Republican candidates are less able to anticipate and respond to Irvin’s campaign, which has shown an ability to dig stuff out of the rest of the field. , especially Darren Bailey and Jesse Sullivan.

Many of the hits you’ve seen on these two candidates come from the Irvin camp. Gary Rabine and Paul Schimpf apparently didn’t feature enough in the primary to deserve much attention.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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