Dems’ big night—what does it mean in Illinois?

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Democrats today are partying like it’s Barack Obama’s first day in the White House. They have good reason, given what voters did to the Republicans in New Jersey, Virginia and dozens of other locales from coast to coast.

But there’s still a full year to go before the election that really counts. That’s in November 2018, when control of Congress, the Illinois General Assembly and the Illinois governor’s mansion all will be on the line. Yesterday’s vote surely sent some scary messages to some big-name Republicans here. But some of the messages are bipartisan. Nothing as yet is predetermined for 2018.

The clearest message is for Gov. Bruce Rauner, who like Virginia’s Ed Gillespie is at his core a moderate Republican running in a blue––in Virginia’s case, turning blue––state in the era of Donald Trump. The message: Figure out how to deal with Trump and his backers, or pack your bags.

Gillespie tried to walk the narrow line by echoing some of Trump’s political style on things such as immigration while distancing himself from the man himself. It didn’t work. Gillespie did OK in solidly GOP areas, garnering a healthy share of the vote. But he was swamped in Washington, D.C., suburbs of northern Virginia, suburbs much like Chicago’s collar counties. Turnout in such areas soared, with a third of voters statewide telling pollsters that dislike of Trump was a reason why they voted the way they did.

Rauner, too, has an awkward relationship with the nation’s executive. State Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, who’s expected to challenge Rauner in the March GOP primary, is philosophically a lot closer to the president than Rauner, who’s reluctant to even use Trump’s name in public.

Rauner’s problem is that he needs a big turnout among Trump backers, many them downstate, but needs to get that turnout without firing up the same sort of suburban revolt that ensnared Gillespie.

What to do? The best solution would be to somehow talk Ives out of the contest, says Illinois Manufacturers Association chief Greg Baise, a top Republican. Perhaps telling Ives that she can’t win in November, that only he can keep Democrats from totally controlling state government for another decade after post-2020 census remap, will work, Baise suggests.

Maybe. Whatever happens, Rauner by all intents will keep running as much against House Speaker Mike Madigan as against the eventual Democratic nominee. But that nominee will run not only against Rauner but Trump. After yesterday, that argument has heft.

Yesterday’s results also were not very helpful to U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, who represents much of DuPage County and the western suburbs.

I know some folks out there think I’ve got it in for Roskam. But his problem isn’t me. It’s voters, fired up Democrats and independents, because his district’s demographics––upper middle class, mostly white, heavily white-collar and professional––look an awful lot like those in Northern Virginia.

Roskam already has to explain his vote for the Obamacare repeal bill that died in the Senate. Now he’s one of the principal architects of a pending tax bill that seems to punish upper-middle-class professionals who live in relatively high-tax blue states.

In that vein, it’s of note that one of Roskam’s GOP colleagues, Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents a district just north of San Diego and who faces a tough re-election race, yesterday announced that he opposes the current draft of the bill, declaring, “Tax reform should cut taxes for all taxpayers––regardless of where they live.”

Issa specifically mentioned the state and local tax deduction, which would mostly disappear under the bill.

For Roskam’s sake, I hope he noticed. The congressman keeps arguing that, overall, the bill is good for his district. But after statements like Issa’s and yesterday’s votes, Roskam is going to have a harder time convincing people in his district that he truly has their welfare in mind.

Meanwhile, however, the big election day is a year away. That’s more than enough time for the Democratic Party to pull out of its patented defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory moves.

Leading up to Virginia, media was filled with chatter about Hillary Clinton and whether she rigged things at the Democratic National Committee and what Bernie Sanders will do about it and the like. Those divisions were so deep that some Democratic insiders believed Gillespie in the end would pull out a victory over Democrat Ralph Northam.

Fortunately for the Dems, their voters yesterday were a lot smarter and ignored that stuff. But the split between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party is real. It could resume here if County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia decides to take another stab at unseating Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

If the party doesn’t leave such battles until later, after 2018, if it dissolves into a mass of feuding special interests, someone at the White House will be smiling a year from now.

Both sides now will take about 20 minutes to reassess before the 2018 election battle fully unfolds. The donkeys now have the edge, but it ain’t over until it’s over.

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