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Sweet: Todd Ricketts leads anti-Trump charge as Illinois comes in play

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WASHINGTON — As Donald Trump was racking up Super Tuesday wins, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Todd Ricketts, the Cubs board member who runs a conservative super PAC, was calling around to raise money to stop him.

As much as Trump and Hillary Clinton dominated in the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, they didn’t effectively clinch their nominations — but they might after the March 15 votes, where delegate-rich Illinois is a prize.

Getting down to Illinois presidential business:

• Ricketts, the Wilmette businessman who was a co-finance chair of the failed presidential bid of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is now leading the anti-Trump charge through the Our Principles PAC.

The group is out with a new ad blistering Trump over customers who claimed they were ripped off by Trump University. The buy targets Michigan, with a March 8 vote; Florida, with the most March 15 delegates; and it will get some play in Illinois.

Sen. Marco Rubio won the Republican presidential caucuses in Minnesota. And Florida is key here because he has to at least win his home state in order to remain viable and to resist pressure to drop out.

Florida is key here because U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has to at least win his home state in order to remain viable and to resist pressure to drop out.

Trump is mainly winning by pluralities — and if “establishment” Republicans want to shut him down, they have to get behind one contender. On Super Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won his home state of Texas and Oklahoma. Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich did not score any victories.

Ricketts’ mom, Marlene Ricketts, whose husband Joe, is the Cubs patriarch and the T.D. Ameritrade founder, earlier this year donated $3 million to Our Principles PAC.

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• Watch for the downsizing of the Nabisco plant in Chicago to take on a higher profile. Trump regularly blasts the move and now so is Bernie Sanders’ camp. “Nabisco closing up shop in Chicago and moving to Mexico, we got to stop it,” Trump said Tuesday night.

Though Clinton is ahead in her native Illinois — and won far more delegates than Sanders on Super Tuesday — Sanders’ Illinois team sees the potential for targeted Illinois pickups.

On Wednesday, Sanders’ campaign will hold a press conference in Chicago with union leaders representing Nabisco workers.

• Illinois holds potential for Rubio, Cruz and Kasich because 54 of the 69 total delegates from Illinois will be fairly easy and cheap to target.

“It would be wise for all the presidential candidates to spend some time in Illinois because they can compete for votes by Congressional District,” said Nick Klitzing, the Illinois Republican Party spokesman.

In Illinois, delegates are allocated on a hybrid system — not winner take all, like in Florida. Three delegates are elected from each of the 18 congressional districts. In districts anchored in Chicago — where most voters are Democrats — it may take just a few hundred GOP votes to pick up three delegates — a potential bonus for a campaign that can target and deliver voters.

• Cruz is putting resources into an Illinois ground game, I am told, trying on a smaller scale to replicate his successful Iowa turnout drive.

Cruz hits Illinois on March 11. He will attend an Illinois Republican Party “Governor’s Dinner” fundraiser at the Palmer House — so far the only GOP contender lined up — and then jumps over to Rolling Meadows for the Annual Northwest Suburban Lincoln Day Dinner.

• Rubio has picked up the support of major Illinois GOP donors who had been backing Jeb Bush until he quit the race. The Rubio camp confirmed Muneer Satter is now the Rubio Illinois Finance co-chair, with major Illinois fundraisers, Reeve Waud, Chris Galvin and Ron Gidwitz also moving over from Bush to the Rubio finance team.

• Kasich, whose best showing was in Vermont, will be stumping in Illinois on March 9 and may make another stop before the Illinois vote, said Mike Schrimpf, his spokesman.

Ohio also votes on March 15 with a lot of delegates up for grabs — and if Kasich can’t win Ohio, he may be finished.

Kasich “has been playing an away game for the past month and now we are about to head to the Midwest,” Schrimpf said.

Follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet

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