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Opinion

April 19, 2014

Shribman: Races to watch in 2014

(Continued)

The issue here is the political profile of Iowa, the site of the first presidential caucus in 2016. The state’s gubernatorial race won’t tell us much significant. The incumbent, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, is running for his sixth term — if he wins, he’d be positioned to be the longest-serving governor in American history — and so the gubernatorial race is less about issues than it is about Branstad.

The focus instead is on the GOP Senate primary, with special attention on whether the nominee is identified with what are known in Iowa as “Liberty Republicans,” who are basically members of the Tea Party, or with party regulars. The resolution of this contest — one of the candidates is a woman who says she has experience castrating hogs, positioning her perfectly to cut pork — will provide insights about the character of the Republican caucuses a year from January.

Illinois governor. Anything unusual that happens in a president’s home state is important — and a Bruce Rauner victory in the gubernatorial race in Illinois this fall would send an especially powerful message.

Rauner, who owns a share of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the former chairman of a private equity firm in Chicago. He is a novice to elective politics and his is a traditional Republican profile, emphasizing business values, government efficiency, reduced spending and lower taxes. To that he has added a vow to cut the state’s minimum wage.

His opponent is Gov. Pat Quinn, a traditional Illinois Democrat with traditional experience (six years as lieutenant governor, four as treasurer) but an untraditional Democratic problem — opposition from unions, in large measure because of his support for a state pension plan that undermines public employees’ retirement plans.

All this puts a key political force, organized labor, in a difficult position, chary of the Republican challenger and skeptical of the Democratic incumbent. Quinn’s job approval numbers provide no comfort for the governor.

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