The Republican candidates were mostly speaking to, well,
Republicans, and the faithful were listening.
LOOKING, LISTENING: GOP voters hoping to find a candidate.
"The activists that are on the ground doing all of the hard work, we
really are looking for a leader," Mike Bigger, an Illinois
Republican State Central committeeman, said Thursday. "We want
somebody we can get excited about, and be happy to be out there for
in 10-degree weather pounding yard signs into somebody's yard."
"Primaries are low turnout affairs. They are generally (driven by)
the most active people in a political party," said David Yepsen,
director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern
Illinois University. "(The candidates) are going to be talking to
these activists; these precinct committeeman and ward captains around the state
who really have an impact on who wins the primary."
Yepsen said polls show many GOP voters still don't know who they
want as their candidate — "undecided" now leads the field.
Bigger said the Republican Party faithful are waiting for a
candidate to prove he's a leader.
"I think what we're looking for is a candidate that can rise to the
top, and be our clear choice" Bigger said.
SAY WHAT? Reporters listened to the GOP candidates explain their
"I am not a Republican with horns and a tail," state treasurer and
candidate Dan Rutherford said, trying to appeal to Democrats and
Rutherford said even conservative primary voters respect that.
"Republicans in Illinois today are ready for someone who is being
blunt and candid," Rutherford said.
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GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner had to answer questions about whether
his lead in the polls and fundraising lead would translate into
votes come March.
"We have 2,000 volunteers signed up in our campaign," Rauner said.
"We have college kids, we have high school kids, and we even have
folks who are traditionally Democrats."
The 2010 GOP nominee, Bill Brady, echoed a recent Republican
president when he talked about his appeal to primary voters.
"I think people are looking for someone who's conservative,
particularly a fiscal conservative," Brady said Thursday night. "But
I also think people want someone who is compassionate. As George W.
Bush said, 'A 'compassionate conservative'."
Kirk Dillard, who has been running toward the conservative base of
the Republican Party so far this year, said courting conservative
primary voters without alienating moderates in November is a
"These activists in the Republican Party are going to be looking at
this (debate), looking for someone they like and agree with and looking for
someone who can win." Yepsen said.
Contact Benjamin Yount at
Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him
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