While online campaigning and phone polling are changing the way elections happen, Democrats in Springfield may find themselves in an unfamiliar position if they should win a super-majority next week, a Chicago-area political reporter said during a radio interview.
"It will expose the Democrats," Charles Thomas, political reporter for ABC-7, said during a recent edition of Illinois Rising. "If they get a clear super-majority, a clear super-majority in the House, and they have a super-majority in the Senate already -- super, super majority if you will -- then they're going to have to govern. And that's something that they really haven't shown much willingness to do, even during the Pat Quinn years. They never governed."
Historically, Democrats in the General Assembly, even when they had the numbers to do so, wouldn't make decisions, Thomas said. "They always said, 'Well, we've got to have Republican votes on this or that' even though they had enough votes on their own to govern. Well, they're going to be really put in a position where they going to have to govern, should that happen. They're going to have to pass tax increases, and they're going to have to wear the jacket for it."
Gov. Bruce Rauner easily could counter that by championing Illinois taxpayers, Thomas said.
"If the governor just continually vetoes one tax increase after another tax increase, then the governor conceivably, with the right spin, could frame himself as a hero of the taxpayer in Illinois," Thomas said.
The situation in Illinois could more readily change this week if the Democrats' super-majority in the state Legislature were to turn a simple majority because House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) would have to become more cooperative, Thomas said.
"I think it makes a huge difference," Thomas said. "It really forces the speaker to sit down and talk about some of the reforms. I think that because that will mean he will have lost something somewhere."
That's assuming Madigan's party doesn't gain seats in the Assembly, Thomas said. "If he gained seats, then I think it would be a loss for the governor, perhaps two years from now," Thomas said.
This election cycle is, however, unlike any other, Thomas said.
"There's two different campaigns going on here," Thomas said. "One is the virtual campaign -- that's the one that's online, Facebook, people talking and such. And then you have the actual, physical campaign, the stuff you see on television. I know the people in the digital world; they don't know what's really going on. You can ask them, and they'll say, 'Well, we can't really quantify what the turnout will be, ultimately' and such. We just don't know because you can't vote online. You can campaign online, you can talk about it online, but you can't vote online. You actually have to physically show up someplace to cast a ballot or physically mail in a ballot."
Thomas also referred to reports from Cook County's clerk and the Chicago Board of Elections that voter registration and interest are higher than when Illinois native son Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008.
"Go figure," Thomas said. "But I think there's a big difference in this campaign, this year, and that is that so much of it is going on online. I think anybody listening here knows that they don't see very many signs out there in yards or anything like that."
Thomas voiced suspicion about modern polling, done largely by robocall.
"Whether it's cell phone or landline, let's face it: If you call me on my phone, and I don't recognize the number, I'm not going to answer. So I'm a little suspicious of automated phone polling at this point," Thomas said.