Blue State Blues: Democrats Are Putting Illinois in Play in 2020

Chicago Trump supporters (Scott Olson / Getty)
Scott Olson / Getty

Fourteen of the Democratic Party’s candidates for president will descend on California for the state party’s annual convention in San Francisco this weekend.

But while California — which moved its primary from June to March — will play a crucial role in the Democratic primary, its vote in the general election is already a foregone conclusion.

Yet there are other traditional Democratic strongholds where President Donald Trump might hope to win surprise victories in 2020.

Minnesota, for example, is a potential pickup for Trump. The Republican ticket came within less than 2% of winning the state in 2016, and Republicans also flipped the 8th congressional district in 2018 — one of the only GOP pickups.

The deep-blue state of Illinois may also be in play, thanks to aggressive left-wing policies being pursued by an unpopular state government that could trigger a significant public backlash.

On Monday, state legislators put a constitutional amendment on the November 2020 ballot that would allow the state to move from a flat tax to a “progressive” income tax. Democrats have maintained for years that raising taxes on the rich is the only way to close the state’s persistent budget gaps, and have rejected spending cuts.

But high taxes are already driving high-income residents and businesses to other states — including neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin, as well as warmer-weather states.

Though Democrats dominate the state legislature, opponents of the tax changes will put up a serious fight — one that could mobilize large number of otherwise apathetic voters to come to the polls, potentially boosting the GOP ticket.

In addition, Illinois is currently debating a bill that, if passed, would be one of the most extreme pro-abortion laws in the nation, removing all restrictions on the practice, including partial-birth abortion. As Breitbart News’ Dr. Susan Berry reported Tuesday, the bill is being described by critics as “the most radically pro-abortion measure of its kind.”

Outside of Cook County, which is where Chicago and its near suburbs are located, Illinois is a culturally conservative state, and it is possible that conservative voters could turn out next year to punish legislators who support the abortion bill. Conservative voters have been rather subdued lately — but that was largely because then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, reneged on his pledge to veto state funding for abortion. (He nearly lost a primary challenge as a result.)

Finally, there is the possibility that Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire-turned-politician, could face legal trouble over his attempt to dodge property taxes several years ago by having the toilets removed from one of his mansions in Chicago. He is reportedly under federal criminal investigation.

Add to that the public outrage over the Jussie Smollett scandal in Chicago, and Democrats may face a wave of voter revulsion against the state’s corrupt, complacent Democrat elite.

That could all just be wishful thinking. But Illinois has voted for Republicans statewide in recent memory — once with Rauner in 2014, and once with Sen. Mark Kirk in 2010.

As both parties focus on the battle for the Upper Midwest states that Trump won in 2016, it is possible that Illinois could slip, below the radar, into the Republican column.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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