Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who must reclaim the GOP base to win re-election, showed up in the audience at President Donald Trump’s southern Illinois rally on Saturday, though Trump never mentioned the governor in his remarks nor invited him to the stage.
If it was a deliberate snub, it was was a remarkable rebuff — a Republican president ignoring a GOP governor who is struggling to win a second term against Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Or Rauner’s team may have said it’s OK to ignore him as he continues to try to have it both ways when it comes to Trump.
While avoiding Rauner, Trump did give a big boost to three of the four Republican Illinois House members facing tough re-election races: Reps. Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and, in a big surprise, Randy Hultgren.
Hultgren traveled more than 300 miles from his Chicago area district to Murphysboro to plant his flag with the president in the unannounced appearance.
I heard that Rauner’s team was trying to arrange a last-minute private meeting with Trump, a move calculated to try to appease the GOP base he has alienated so much that he barely won re-nomination in the March Illinois GOP primary.
I’m not sure that private meeting ever took place.
I did see Rauner pictured in the crowd standing next to Republican National Committee Finance Chair Todd Ricketts, who did visit with Trump at the rally.
It’s hard to see how this fence straddling will work well for Rauner. While he avoided being caught in the same camera frame as Trump — which would depress his support among the independents and moderate Republicans he needs — he still was not embraced by Trump.
Trump is very popular with the segments of the Republican base Rauner knows he needs.
Rauner on Saturday was trying to catch a ride on Trump’s coat tails without paying much of a price.
The rally was billed as a boost for Bost.
Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., in a fight with Democratic nominee Seat Casten in the 6th district, was the only one of the four GOP targets who did not attend the Trump rally, which made sense since his re-election depends on wooing voters who are turned off by Trump’s divisive politics and scorched rhetoric.
Hultgren is in a tight race with Democratic nominee Lauren Underwood in the 14th congressional district, in prior years safe GOP turf. Hultgren needs Trump’s help to turn out Republicans who otherwise sit out mid-terms.
Hultgren may have decided to journey to Murphysboro, a six-hour drive from Chicago near Carbondale, because former Vice President Joe Biden headlines a rally for Underwood on Wednesday at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, where blues singer Keb’ Mo’ will also perform.
“We need your vote,” Hultgren said to the crowd, though he was hundreds of miles away from his voters.
Bost is facing a strong challenge for the 12th district seat from Democrat Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney. Davis is running against Democrat contender Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in the 13th district, anchored in central Illinois.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.