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Rauner: the Romney of 2014?

Updated: February 14, 2014 6:15AM

Americans ogle, admire and envy the rich and successful. They don’t necessarily elect them.

Ask Mitt Romney. Bruce Rauner could be the Romney of 2014. A major factor in Romney’s loss of the 2012 presidential election was a video that showed him writing off 47 percent of American voters as lacking personal responsibility.

Last week, Rauner, a Republican contender in Illinois’ upcoming gubernatorial primary, tumbled into his own “47 percent” hole.

News reports revealed that in the span of several months, Rauner has said he would knock Illinois’ minimum wage down by $1. And he said he would raise the current rate of $7.25 to as much as $10. And he said the Illinois minimum wage is basically fine just where it is.

These confusing and contradictory declarations emerged in a series of video clips from campaign forums and in interviews. As Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney wrote, it could be a “flip-flop-flip.”

People who have dealt with the wildly successful private equity investor tell me he’s got an arrogant streak, and has all the answers. He’s a big guy, with big talk, bigger plans and even bigger money.

That makes him a very big target.

Rauner has gobbled up endorsements and campaign contributions, putting up more than $2 million of his own money. The bucks are powering a blitz of TV commercials, promising he will vanquish the state’s career politicians and union bosses.

In 2012, Mitt Romney also counted on his business success to carry him to the White House. The Obama campaign turned that plan on its head, pigeon-holing him as an elite, out-of-touch multimillionaire with little regard for the little guy.

Now the opposition is out to Romney-ize Rauner. Gov. Pat Quinn, Rauner’s primary opponents, the unions, the Democratic Party, liberal activists and even GOP operatives are planning to spend big bucks. They will portray Rauner as an elite, out-of-touch multimillionaire with little regard for the little guy.

Rauner dismisses that argument. “I completely reject and always have . . . that whole ‘47-percent’ commentary and logic. I think that’s a mistake,” he told the Sun-Times.

Meanwhile, he’s giving them ammo. You’ve seen his omniscient TV ad. The one where he sports an old, beat-up Timex watch. It still “gets the job done,” he exhorts. Just like him.

His campaign bio elaborates. “Bruce has never let his success change him. He still drives a 20-year-old camper van, wears an $18 watch, and stays in the cheapest hotel room he can find when he’s on the road.”

It doesn’t mention that, just like Romney, he owns an array of luxury homes, including two ranches, a penthouse apartment and a villa, spread out across Winnetka, Chicago, Montana, Utah, Manhattan and the Florida Keys. (Why does he need a hotel?)

Or that he made $53 million in 2012.

For some, it’s the hypocrisy. My brother-in-law leans Republican, lives in north suburban Glenview. He does OK. He’s seen the commercials.

“A multimillionaire investor from Winnetka pretending to be a man of the people,” Bob Richmond snarked the other day.

“Give me a break. Just say, ‘Hey look, I’m rich, no apologies, it’s irrelevant.’ Don’t lower yourself to that b.s.”

Maybe the Timex wasn’t such a good idea, after all.

Wanna buy a watch?


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