Governor’s race becomes Biden vs. Christie for a day

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In the middle of an intensely competitive gubernatorial race in Illinois, two political big hitters — Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — landed in Chicago on Monday to push their respective party candidates.

Republican Bruce Rauner wasn’t even in Illinois – he was in Maine dropping off his son at college – but Christie, the Republican Governors Association chairman, visited the Rauner campaign headquarters downtown and trashed Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Christie said he would make sure “that the people of Illinois are reminded of the miserable, failed nature of the Quinn governorship.”

Christie, with Rauner running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti at his side, then warned that the Democratic machine of Illinois would try to throw up blockades to a Rauner victory in November.

“He will try every trick in the book,” Christie said of Quinn. “I see the stuff that’s going on. Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking,” he added sarcastically. “I’m sure it was all based upon public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”

Christie also questioned a recent decision allowing a Libertarian candidate on the November ballot, but not a Green Party candidate. A Green Party candidate could draw votes away from Quinn while a Libertarian candidate could draw Rauner votes.

“Now I see that the court’s ruled that the Libertarian candidate can be on the ticket but the Green Party can’t. Another interesting development. I told some people this morning: ‘You people in Illinois make New Jersey people blush, it’s unbelievable, right?’ Every obstacle that can be placed in front of Bruce by the establishment in this state will be placed in front of him. The great news is he’s strong enough to overcome those.”

Neal Waltmire, Communications Director for Illinois Freedom PAC, then blasted Christie for likening the expanded access to voting to being an “obstacle.”

“If allowing legally eligible citizens to register to vote is an obstacle to Bruce Rauner’s election, it speaks only to the billionaire’s deeply unpopular Wall Street values, not the merit of Illinois’ voting laws,” Waltmire said.

Biden did not deliver a thrashing of Rauner comparable to Christie’s Quinn criticisms. In fact, Biden avoided talk of Illinois political races when he joined the mayor and governor for a discussion about the minimum wage at the Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy. The issue is one Democrats have been pushing both locally and nationally.

Biden applauded Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for embracing measures to boost the wage in Chicago and statewide.

“Nobody working full-time in America should be living in poverty,” Biden said to applause.

Biden then headed to a fund-raiser for Quinn in Lincoln Park. Earlier in the day, he raised money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Christie hit two fund-raisers while in town as well, including one for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Both Christie’s and Biden’s media events involved a degree of controlled access. In the Biden event, reporters were only allowed in for the final 10 minutes to listen to statements by Biden, Emanuel and Quinn. They did not take questions. The Rauner event did not allow access to Sanguinetti or Christie. However, Christie did answer some questions on his way back to his car.

Christie acknowledged that having two political big hitters in Chicago on the same day was a testament to how up for grabs the governor’s race in Illinois may be.

“It’s an incredibly important race. Especially for somebody like me as the chairman of the RGA who is a blue state governor,” Christie said. “They’ve really worked hard, and they’ve got this race in a position where they can win it. I gotta be there to support it.”

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