CHRONICLE: What do NJ, VA Democratic sweeps mean for Rauner?

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On Tuesday, voters across the country repudiated the Trump agenda, electing Democrats in key races, with wins in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey topping the list. Analysts are asking what the Democratic sweep means for Governor Bruce Rauner’s re-election efforts in Illinois.

Rauner already has sunk to his lowest approval ratings of his tenure, with just 30 percent of Illinoisans polled approving of his performance as governor. As one of the least popular governors in the country, he is widely recognized as one of the most vulnerable in next November’s elections.

In addition to the environmental headwinds with Democrats, voters overwhelmingly rated healthcare and gun reform as their biggest policy priorities, according to Virginia exit polling. Rauner is particularly vulnerable on both of these issues, having struggled to avoid taking a position with his party or against his party.

Since Trump’s election, Rauner has made a series of puzzling and evasive comments on repealing Obamacare and on the Trumpcare bills. Most recently, on WGN Radio, Rauner offered a baffling response to a question about the healthcare bill, saying, “this is a federal issue; this is not a state issue.”

But the bill has massive implications for states and is especially dangerous for states like Illinois, who could lose millions in funding and end insurance for many.

On gun reform, Rauner has repeatedly refused to support a ban on the “bump stock” devices used in the Las Vegas mass shooting and military-grade assault weapons.

Rauner’s silence puts him at odds with not only national Republicans, but the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been a politically powerful force preventing the passage of gun control measures but supports banning bump stocks.

Rauner is hoping that his nearly $100 million war chest will be enough to overcome his vulnerabilities. And his re-election strategy is already very clear: avoid talking about his lack of accomplishments and pin all blame on Democrats.

But will that be enough to win over frustrated Illinois voters?

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