Editorial: That J.B. Pritzker-Ken Griffin slugfest may just be getting started

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Many of the voters who put Donald Trump in the White House are beginning to see that America is better off without a second Trump term, which would be disastrous for this nation, and they are turning instead to his erstwhile rival but ideological sibling, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

And a growing number of Democrats are just as wisely laying the groundwork for a 2024 presidential nominee other than Joe Biden.

Neither of those things are certain, of course. But a New York Times/Siena College poll, released Monday, painted a disappointing picture for Trump, finding that about half of GOP primary voters preferred someone other than him to run for president in 2024 with a not-insignificant number of potential GOP voters defecting, or not showing up at the polls, if he wins the nomination.

Meanwhile, Politico reported last week that DeSantis has been building relationships with donors and conservative influencers, with a recent confab attended by Govs. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Bill Lee of Tennessee. Politico said that Arkansas gubernatorial candidate and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was there too.

On the Democratic side, a raft of prominent stories noting Biden’s age (he would be 86 at the end of a second term) have been appearing atop influential, left-leaning publications, a whispering confluence that feels hardly coincidental. That no doubt has much to do with that same poll finding that almost two-thirds of Democratic voters want someone other than Biden to run in 2024.

It’s too early to write off Biden as too old to run again and we don’t yet see enough evidence to declare his age a chronic problem during this first term. But a second term might well be a different matter. It’s a tough job, even for a healthy octogenarian.

Progressives, of course, have never seen Biden as a true believer and more centrist pragmatists are reading Biden’s lousy approval ratings, down to 33%. That is not a number that wins an election in a sharply divided country. And, just as strikingly, for reasons we think are obvious, there is not the groundswell of support for Kamala Harris you’d expect under these circumstances. The whispering is not so much that an aging Biden should give way to his vice president, but that the party probably should be casting around for a new candidate altogether.

Which brings us to J.B. Pritzker, who is acting more and more like a presidential candidate, albeit a cautious one, and Ken Griffin, a likely big financial supporter of DeSantis, the boss of Griffin’s new home state after the billionaire financier’s very public exit from Illinois.

There are a lot of variables: For obvious reasons, Pritzker has not even tacitly revealed his interest as transparently as DeSantis, who is not dealing with an incumbent. And, of course, other qualified names have already surfaced on both sides.

But another Pritzker-Griffin standoff, with DeSantis as the proxy for the latter, feels far from out of the question.

As we’ve noted before, Griffin’s objections to Pritzker policies have some merit, especially when it comes to the rise of crime in big cities. Clearly, Griffin believes that Pritzker is putting a potential presidential run ahead of his obligations to Illinois and that is a perception that Pritzker and his crew will want to prevent from broadening. Should Pritzker run, history suggests that Griffin will only be energized in his support of DeSantis, in whom he now has a clear, vested interest.

Should any of this speculation come true, and the Pritzker-Griffin slugfest moves both south and to a national stage, it won’t be a great result for those who believe that there is too much money influencing U.S. politics, especially presidential races. That said, we might well see a scenario where one man’s billions serves to cancel out the other’s billions.

For Illinois, we’d anticipate a mixed bag. Should Pritzker run, and win, in 2024, the state would reap a huge dividend as it did with Barack Obama, whose victory brought both optimism and oft-underestimated economic benefits, especially to Chicago. Global cities need to be in the news and to feel central to the world’s flowing currents of power and a Pritzker presidential campaign, distractions from governance notwithstanding, would be very good for all of that.

The downside, of course, is that the governor’s vulnerability to attacks on the crime issue could hurt perceptions of the state, especially Chicago, which has been a convenient political punching bag for right-wingers ever since the former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel became mayor.

We hope Griffin will ensure that any political attacks for which he might be paying — no matter who the Democratic nominee turns out to be — are kept within the bounds of what is factual and reasonable. And we hope that he encourages DeSantis to be solutions-oriented rather than falling prey to making America’s third-largest city a stereotype.

We’ve said time and time again that crime must be brought under control and that resources must be brought to address all aspects of the causes of gun violence, not just the ones that one side or the other prefers. This issue should be above politics. We can dream.

But in our waking hours, we hope both Pritzker and Griffin remember that, should they go to war once again, we’re not up for being collateral damage in 2024.

Join the discussion on Twitter @chitribopinions and on Facebook.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email letters@chicagotribune.com.

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July 12, 2022 at 05:32PM

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