Governor's TV ad race in search of a home run

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They’ve already begun.The governor’s election isn’t until November, but turn on the TV any time of the day and you’ll see Republican gubernatorial contender Bruce Rauner blasting Gov. Pat Quinn in a “broken promises ad.”

You’ll see an outside group that backs Quinn — Illinois Freedom PAC — blasting Rauner right back in an ad that goes after the venture capitalist’s wealth and past comments about retirement income.

Last week, Rauner’s camp released yet another new TV ad that will work into the rotation. That one, called “Headlines” purports to pull negative news clips about Quinn. (Even though one of the so-called ‘headlines’ is actually a quote from Rauner himself criticizing Quinn.)

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We’ve seen ads begin early in governor’s races.

But longtime Chicago political observer and consultant Don Rose says what’s evolving so far this season in the governor’s race is different.

“I’ve never seen this intensity. Rauner started incredibly early. Every so often a new person might come up with something this early but it wouldn’t be running all the way through,” Rose said. “I think this is the earliest I can remember any gubernatorial campaign going up with this consistency of ads. This is pretty much unprecedented.”

What’s unusual is that it’s coming from both sides. Both Republicans and Democrats have the resources to expend early on in this race — and there’s no expected led up before the fall.

Illinois Freedom PAC is a political action committee made up of a coalition of unions. They launched a series of ads against Rauner in the primary.

That means that Quinn still has plenty of firepower on reserve for when it’s needed in the race.

Rauner, a multimillionaire who continues to tap his personal fortune to fund his campaign, also hasn’t had any problem raising millions of dollars from others.

The result: The airwaves will be filled with negativity before November.

So far, neither Rauner or Quinn backers have hit a “home run,” Rose says.

“Something that really sticks in everybody’s mind,” he said.

A good example is Dawn Clark Netsch’s iconic spot where she’s shooting pool. That ad was a winner, she soared through the primary and when she won, she hoisted a pool cue over her head as a nod to the commercial.

Ultimately, she couldn’t prevail over Jim Edgar, who used his own ads attacking her on her support to end the death penalty.

More recently, Rod Blagojevich used the “Judy Baar Topinka, What’s she thinking?” motto throughout his 2006 race for re-election. He went up as early as Rauner did this summer.

But Topinka lacked the resources to respond.

That’s the difference in the Quinn-Rauner race.

“This is both of them going at it hammer and tongs at a very early stage,” Rose said. “They are trying to define each other, and define themselves and redefine each other and redefine themselves.”

Quinn’s out to establish Rauner as an elitist who wants his own set of rules for the rich and another for the average taxpayer.

Rauner is tapping into all the existing negative ammunition with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative and the bad press surrounding it for Quinn.

Rose said Rauner, at the moment, has a slight edge.

“Because he started a little earlier, and because he has the backup of a lot of generalized news media (with NRI), Rauner may be ahead of him,” Rose said.

The issues Quinn is raising “haven’t fully registered yet,” Rose said. “But they will.”

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