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Ill. Libertarian Chad Grimm Could Sway GOP Voters in Governor's Race

by Carl Wicklander, published

It is still unlikely that Libertarian Chad Grimm will become Illinois' 42nd governor, but as the only other choice on the ballot, his candidacy may soon take on a new phase.

Republican Party nominee Bruce Rauner has long been considered suspect among the state's pro-life activists. In one instance, the newly-minted general election nominee skipped an Illinois Right-to-Life dinner and instead attended a pro-choice event for the ACLU.

That suspicion increased over the weekend when Rauner's wife granted an interview to NBC Chicago and said this about her husband:

"You can trust him that no way he will ever let something happen to our reproductive rights. . . . I think this is a great opportunity, in this race, where we don't have to actually think about the social issues, because both candidates are pro-choice."

Mrs. Rauner's interview is not entirely surprising. Throughout the campaign, Bruce Rauner has typically been coy about his abortion views. He and others are on record saying Rauner is essentially "pro-choice."

One time when the candidate gave a relatively straightforward answer on the topic in 2013, he said:

"The reality is that the right for a woman to choose is a national law. That's not going to change in Illinois. I think we can agree on some common sense ways for abortion to be more rare and safe."

Former Illinois U.S. Representative Joe Walsh, who now hosts a radio show, said recently:

"He's (Rauner) gonna reach a point where if he continues to ignore and insult conservatives, eventually conservatives  reach a point where they just say, that's kinda like the final thing."

However, Walsh, who took an unequivocal anti-abortion stance in his failed 2012 re-election bid, also said that it all comes down to boundaries.

"If Rauner were anti-Second Amendment, I could not support him," he remarked.

The anxiety many Illinois Republicans have over Rauner and his abortion position may ultimately lead portions of the GOP coalition to support another candidate. To that point, in a Facebook post over the weekend, Chad Grimm, gubernatorial candidate for the Libertarian Party, wrote:

"I am pro life, as I believe there should be no crime so long as no one is harmed and I consider the murder of an unborn child as the worst kind of harm committed on the most innocent among us!"

Grimm's brief statement seems to borrow from some pro-life activists' language that the right-to-life is a human right with abortion akin to murder. Grimm has not spoken on abortion yet during the campaign, so it is difficult to see how it might play out.

Grimm has polled equally well among independents and Democrats. However, if he emphasizes his pro-life position he has the possibility to peel off some disgruntled Republican voters.

By most accounts, the Illinois governorship should be one for the Republicans to win. Pat Quinn squeaked to victory to a full term in 2010. In that election, Quinn won only 4 of Illinois' 102 counties. However, one was Cook, the most populous, where he won resoundingly.

In that election, Libertarian candidate Lex Green received over 34,000 votes: more than the difference between Quinn and his GOP challenger. If it is assumed that all Libertarian voters would otherwise vote Republican -- a questionable claim -- then the Libertarian vote is hardly negligible.

Conventional wisdom suggests that focusing on divisive social issues is an electoral loser. Polls have shown variety on the split between pro-life and pro-choice preferences, but the trend holds that roughly half of respondents identify as pro-life.

Rauner has largely eschewed this part of the electorate in pursuit of independents and cross-over Democrats. However, the numbers show that his campaign has simply failed to attract these voters and finish off a vulnerable incumbent.

On at least one item, Mrs. Rauner is correct. Social issues have not played a role in this race. Jobs and underfunded pensions have been the key talking points for both major candidates.

Despite that, Rauner has been having difficulty uniting his party. Polls continue to indicate that the general election is a close affair, but most show Rauner leading by only three to five points against the generally unpopular Quinn.

Through it all, Grimm might have an opportunity to show that his party, often seen as liberal on social issues, can run a pro-life candidate. It may also be a chance to test the proposition that pro-lifers and other disgruntled conservatives will not leave the GOP because there is no other place to go.

Photo Source: AP

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