After a divisive primary, Republicans worried they would not be able to come together in time to make the governor's race competitive.
State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said he's less worried about that now, though Gov. Bruce Rauner will have to broaden his media strategy beyond attacking the Democratic House speaker.
"I don't think Republicans win elections in Illinois simply by saying we're the defense to (Illinois House Speaker Michael) Madigan's offense. We don't get to earn the right to govern simply by saying Madigan is the boogeyman," said Barickman.
Barickman said attacking Madigan is part of the strategy since the speaker is one of the most unpopular politicians in the state.
But Barickman said Rauner will have to show how he can lead in the future, beyond obstructing Democrats.
"I think the public will want more. I think the path forward for a Republican has to be demonstrating the leadership necessary to advance our state regardless of whether Madigan is speaker or not. That message, I think, wins a general election," said Barickman.
There has been significant criticism of the governor's leadership, even among his own party, because of a two-year budget deadlock. Barickman said that has been difficult for the governor, but said Rauner has learned.
Barickman says the GOP gathering at the State Fair showed him it is possible to overcome the divisiveness of the primary. Social conservative Jeanne Ives gathered 48 percent of the primary vote in a challenge to Rauner. Barickman said he saw some enthusiasm for the governor during Republican gatherings, though it will still take more work to win in November.
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