Jeanne Ives began the race for Illinois governor 44 points behind.
The state’s Republican establishment had already lined up behind incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner: he may be the country’s “worst Republican governor,” as the National Review put it, but he is, or was, the most electable candidate.
How things have changed. In the space of just a few weeks, Ives has gone from a relative unknown to the front page of every newspaper, the top of the news.
Two things happened. First, Ives “crushed” Rauner in their joint appearance before the Chicago Tribune editorial board last Monday.
She pressed him on his liberal policies — such as making Illinois a “sanctuary state” for illegal aliens, and expanding state funding for abortions — and she chided him for his failures, such as allowing the state legislature to raise taxes, and not finding a way to work around Democrat State House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Rauner had no real answers. He claimed Madigan is the one with real power, and said he would urge Democratic candidates to depose their party leader.
Think about that: a Republican governor says he is running to elect better Democrats.
Ives’s strong performance won plaudits from the local pundits.
And then, having won the praise of the elite Chicago media, she proceeded to shock them by launching a viral video ad that mocked Illinois liberals.
The ad, “Thank you, Bruce Rauner,” features a cast of characters, each of whom is a caricature of an interest group that has benefited from Rauner’s policies.
There is a pussyhat-wearing woman thanking the governor for paying for abortions. There is an “Antifa” activist in a black hoodie, his face covered by a bandana. And, most controversially, there is a man with five o’clock shadow wearing a red dress, who is supposed to represent a transgender woman.
The headlines throbbed with indignation; the editorial pages exploded in rage. Republicans pressured Ives to take down the ad: making fun of liberals must not be tolerated.
But Ives stood her ground. She told the City Club of Chicago this week: “I respect people who are different than me.”
Where she draws the line is where the state, in the name of tolerance, violates the rights — and raids the wallets — of Illinois residents who disagree.
Purely on tactical grounds, the ad is brilliant. Chicago media rarely cover a Republican candidate, unless he or she does something “wrong.”
No, the ad is not an accurate representation of transgenders — and it is not meant to be. It is a send-up of the liberal social agenda, which Rauner has advanced — in this case, signing a Democrat bill to let transgender people change the sex on their birth certificates, which some conservatives fear could lead to abuses.
Suddenly, Ives is surging — and Rauner is attacking her. Republicans in Illinois are waking up to the fact that they have an alternative — and she is the real deal.
The third-term State Representative, West Point graduate, U.S. Army veteran, and suburban Chicago mom offers more than a chance to force Rauner to account to the base he abandoned. Ives also offers a real chance to win the general election, and save Illinois from its continued slide into fiscal catastrophe.
Her November prospects are bright because the three leading Democrats — billionaire J.B. Pritzker, State Senator Daniel Biss, and developer Chris Kennedy — are running on the same “progressive” agenda that has broken the state.
Pritzker, who is backed by the Madigan machine, was thought to be inevitable. But this week, old recordings emerged in which he was heard mocking black politicians — while talking to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
While he is an affable follow — and a college classmate of mine — Biss is running on Bernie Sanders’s ideas and anti-Trump sentiment. (Biss related at a “mourning” ceremony after Trump’s victory — yes, they actually had those — that he had sobbed the night Trump won.)
Rauner has no chance to win the general election. Some polls suggest he is more unpopular than Trump, in a state that hates Trump. The GOP establishment is clinging to Rauner’s frayed coattails in the hope of minimizing the damage in down-ticket races.
But Ives is challenging the go-along-to-get-along caucus, bringing life to the race and hope to a state that has been failed by the establishment of both parties and needs bold leadership, now.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.