CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Bruce Rauner is on a campaign-style fly-around of Illinois to talk about the budget.
It sure looks like a re-election kickoff, but Rauner refused to call it that.
Rauner’s first stop on Tuesday was at NOW Foods in Bloomingdale, which is a place he visited during his first run for office. And it had all the hallmarks, including smiling selfies with factory employees and oh-so familiar lines from his 2014 campaign.
“You know, my wife is a democrat. I’m a republican. This is not about partisanship; this is about working for the people of Illinois so you have a better future,” he said.
His campaign paid for the whirlwind, statewide road show (ten cities in two days), but the Governor steadfastly refused to call this the launch of his re-election campaign.
“That will be discussed later on. The election will be its own process later on. This is not about the election.”
“This trip is not an election announcement; it’s traveling the state to communicate with the people of Illinois in person – because these are wonderful people,” Rauner said. “I work for everyone in this room, whether they’re democrats or republicans.”
His travel schedule suggests otherwise, however. Over the next two days, Gov. Rauner will be visiting Bloomington, Rockford, Rock Island, Peoria, Springfield, Quincy, East Alton, Marion, Robinson and Champaign.
“We want this to be separate and paid for independently from any government operation.”
Still, in a campaign-style speech, Rauner sounded all of his themes about shaking up Illinois government, including getting a balanced budget with, as he always says, needed reforms.
A new poll released on Tuesday, shows improved approval numbers — 33 percent before the last year’s election to 46 percent now. But that stills leaves Rauner in the bottom 10 governors nationwide.
And students and staff at Northeastern Illinois University blame the Governor for that state’s current budget stalemate.
“We’re out here rallying and protesting against Governor Rauner and no budget because this is our seventh day of school closures,” said Professor Nanette Potee.
Responding to the protest, Rauner said state universities need to be properly funded, but that it’s dependent upon a budget agreement that can produce economic growth.
Meantime, Rauner’s democratic challengers pounced.
J.B. Pritzker criticized Rauner for putting politics over doing his job as governor — out campaigning while Northeastern is shut down.
And Chris Kennedy chimed in, saying Rauner needs to explain to voters why, by almost every measure, Illinois is in worse shape than when he took office.