In the latest gubernatorial poll, Gov. Pat Quinn was leading Republican opponent Bruce Rauner by 2 points when it came to female support.
The fact that Rauner is down slightly is no matter to the Rauner organization.
The campaign is salivating over those numbers. Why?
They’re looking back at the 2010 election.
According to CNN exit polling data at the time, Republican Mark Kirk, in his bid for U.S. Senate, lost the female vote by 3 percentage points. Republican Bill Brady lost the female vote by 4 percentage points.
Kirk won the election. Brady lost narrowly, by 31,000 votes statewide.
Did women make the difference?
Well, political consultants will tell you every demographic matters in elections, and there are many variables that came into play in the 2010 race.
However, women do make up more than 50 percent of the overall electorate, and if they’re tilting toward one candidate or another, well, yes, they could drive critical numbers in what’s promising to be a neck-and-neck governor’s contest.
It then shouldn’t be a surprise if the battle over the female vote becomes one of the fiercest fights in the closing weeks of the campaign before the Nov. 4 election.
The Women for Rauner coalition announced its launch on July 1st.
The campaign set up phone banks in the Glenview, Naperville and Geneva field offices, where they make weekly rounds targeting the suburban female vote.
Since May, the Rauner camp reports that it has held 10 women-centric events, each with 75 to 250 attendees.
Rauner is working much harder to court the female vote than Brady did. Rauner also has a basic policy difference than Brady — he is pro-choice. Brady was pro-life. Rauner has made an effort to prop up his wife, Diana, in TV ads where she, as a Democrat, vouches for him and for him having “no social agenda.”
On Friday, Quinn had planned tolaunchhis Women for Quinn coalition with renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, but she was not able to get to Chicago because flights were canceled.
Illinois Republicans portrayed Quinn as coming late to the game, casting the governor’s tenure as a “war on women.” The Quinn camp hits back that Rauner’s former firm GTCR hired a paltry number of women into top positions and that Rauner and his wife have invested in such far-right groups as Donor’s Trust.
“Bruce Rauner and his wife have donated $1 million to anti-choice, anti-women groups,” said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson. “He likes to say he has no social agenda, but his money sure does.”
Anderson said women were front and center in the Quinn campaign. “Gov. Quinn has fought for women’s equality every step of the way,” she said. “He has the record to show it.”
Anderson pointed to Quinn pushing a bill that he later signed into law that added protections for pregnant women in the workplace as well as Quinn signing legislation strengthening the Equal Pay Act in Illinois. Anderson also said Quinn has appointed women to top posts in his administration, including at the tollway, the Illinois Department of Transportation and a deputy governor.
“Many, if not most, of the governor’s senior staff, are women,” Anderson said. “We’ve been working to make Illinois a better place for women for the last five years.”
The Rauner camp has slammed Quinn for his handling of anIDOT patronage scandal, including laying the blame on his previous IDOT secretary, who was a woman.
“Women believe that Pat Quinn’s record on important issues like public safety and education is deeply disappointing and are ready for a positive alternative,” Lyndsey Walters, a Rauner spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Women recognize that Bruce’s work on issues like education is authentic and from the heart and like the fact that Bruce has a unifying agenda.”
What’s Rauner’s record on women? He chose a pro-life woman, Evelyn Sanguinetti, as his running mate, while Quinn signed up former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas. Despite the Quinn camp’scriticism, Rauner’s campaign contends GTCR “led the industry” in hiring high-ranking females.
Rauner got some flak last week for not responding when asked whether he, as part-owner of an NFL franchise, had a comment on the domestic abuse scandal. His campaign later responded that the NFL mishandled the Ray Rice controversy, and then hit Quinn for cutting back on funding for domestic violence shelters in the state.
Assessing who’s up and who’s down in the battle for the female vote is a bumpy roller coaster that will change direction by the week, if not day.
One thing’s for sure: The fight is on.