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Battle of the big money candidates is now officially on

A couple of super-rich men won their parties' primary elections for Illinois governor. Their money swamped the democratic process. | File photos

The most expensive and arguably most negative primary election campaign in Illinois history now makes way for a general election for governor that could surpass it in both categories.

If the gubernatorial primary campaigns got too nasty for your taste, you might need to brace yourself for phase two of the Battle of the Billionaires between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker.

Nobody except perhaps the two candidates themselves knows the upper limits of what they are willing to spend on a general election campaign.

$100 million? More?

And with both candidates starting the race with low popularity ratings, the expectation is most of that money will be spent to define their opponent in the most unfavorable light possible with negative advertising — starting almost immediately.

What? You thought they’d take a break?

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way any more. The November election campaign starts NOW.

After plowing through about $100 million between them in the primary, neither Rauner nor Pritzker are expected to allow themselves to be outspent if they think putting in more money will help them win in November.

“Whatever it takes” will likely be their unspoken motto, although Pritzker has the most money.

From the moment Pritzker announced his campaign a year ago, he and Rauner have tried to train their campaigns on each other, only to be forced to divert their attention to their primary foes.

In the process, they’ve offered up a pretty clear roadmap to how they intend to come after each other.

Expect more of the same with a few tweaks.

Rauner will continue to attack Pritzker as a tax cheat who is the “hand-picked candidate” of the governor’s favorite foil, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

The governor has taken his anti-Madigan rhetoric to a new level in recent weeks, likening Madigan’s control of the Democratic Party to a Mafia protection racket and comparing Madigan himself to Al Capone.

And he’s not about to back off that approach, which has proven his most effective message to Illinois voters — both Republicans and Democrats.

During a recent radio interview, Rauner seemed exultant as he spelled out his dim view of Pritzker: “He’s a tax dodger. He hides his money in the Cayman Islands. He rips toilets out of mansions he buys, so he doesn’t have to pay the full property taxes on them. He tried to buy a Senate seat from Blagojevich. We are gonna blow him up and take him down.”

But Pritzker has plenty of material on Rauner, too, as he continues to portray the governor as someone who failed the people of Illinois by taking a bad situation and making it worse.

Expect more ads calling attention to the state budget crisis and the fallout from it, in particular the impact on social service agencies and the people who rely on them.

And those 13 deaths from Legionnaires’ Disease at a state-operated veterans home in Quincy will remain a point of emphasis.

Then there’s President Donald Trump, whose presidency has put Rauner in an uncomfortable spot. Pritzker will give Rauner nowhere to hide from Trump.