The Illinois Republican Party, with a ticket topped by gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, believes 2014 will be the year they break a losing streak that stretches back to 1998 — the last time a Republican won a governor’s race.

Party faithful gathered Thursday at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair for a rally that focused on one theme: get out the vote.

Earlier Thursday, at a meeting of the Republican State Central Committee, Rauner cautioned GOP leaders to not be deceived by polling that shows him with a double-digit lead over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn. He noted that the Republicans missed retaking the governorship in 2010 by a margin that amounted to roughly three votes per precinct statewide.


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“If voters come out and vote, we’re going to win by a big margin,” Rauner told the crowd at the state fair. “If voters stay home, the machine will run the process.”

This year’s Republican Day was strikingly different in tone than last years, when Rauner, State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and Treasurer Dan Rutherford all were competing for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. By the time Rauner won the primary by 2 points on March 18, the four candidates had engaged in a brutal battle that left each bruised in different ways.

But those wounds appeared to have healed in the five months since then, and unity was the dominant theme of Thursday’s rally.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar, who had campaigned for Dillard and had questioned Rauner’s ability to work with a Democratic legislature if elected, introduced Rauner and offered strong words of support.

Where Gov. Pat Quinn had used Governor’s Day at the fair to portray Rauner as a “plutocrat” whose tax plan would devastate school funding, Rauner used his state fair speech to repeat his believe that Quinn has failed as governor. He vowed to “sweep Pat Quinn into the dustbin of history.”

The event also provided many Republican activists with their first exposure to Evelyn Sanguinetti, the Wheaton attorney who is Rauner’s running mate. Just as Paul Vallas had done for Quinn a day earlier, Sanguinetti provided an emotional speech that drew heavily on her experience as a child of immigrants from Ecuador and Cuba.

While the governor’s race is the marquee contest this year, state Sen. Jim Oberweis touted some encouraging poll numbers that have shown him trailing Dick Durbin by single-digit margins in the U.S. Senate race.  Oberweis got a vote of confidence from the state’s top Republican, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, whose recovery from a serious stroke in 2012 has been one of the most inspiring stories in Illinois politics.

We’ve trimmed the speeches down to the highlights.

Here’s Sanguinetti firing up the crowd.

Oberweis touts positive poll numbers and talks about his efforts to win votes on Chicago’s south side.

Kirk has lost some mobility but his voice remains strong. He won in 2010 running as a social moderate and fiscal conservative and that’s still his message.

 

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