Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Tuesday September 27th, 2016, 4:40pm

Illinois GOP Chairman Defends Rauner, Trump During Chicago Speech

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider believes Monday night's presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was a draw.

"I thought it was really kind of a draw last night," Schneider said Tuesday afternoon at the City Club of Chicago. "I don't think anything that happened last night in the debate changed anybody's mind. If you were gonna vote for Hillary before the debate, you were gonna vote for her after the debate. Donald Trump, the same way."

That being said, Schneider did have some critiques of Trump's debate performance.

"I believe that he spent a lot of his time reacting to the answers that Hillary Clinton gave and should basically just take the question that Lester Holt or the moderator gives and give his answer to it, as opposed to rebutting or answering the question that she made," Schneider told reporters after his speech. "I think he'll get his points across a lot easier that way."

Schneider's comments at the City Club of Chicago came one day before Trump's planned fundraiser in Bolingbrook. An audience member asked whether Trump's suburban fundraiser means the blue state of Illinois is in play this presidential election cycle.

"I don't think anybody knows," Schneider replied. "All the pundits and everything have said that Illinois is gonna be blue. But I'll tell you: This is a different election. You go down to Southern Illinois and they're, 'Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.' You know, they're really, really rooting for this guy."

Schneider, who also serves as a Cook County commissioner, supports Trump.

"He can be rude," Schneider acknowledged of the Republican presidential nominee. "He can be off-base on some things, say things we might not agree upon. But he's not beholden to anybody. He's created thousands of jobs. He wants to secure our borders. He wants to protect our national defense and bring jobs back to America."

Speaking about Clinton, Schneider said he believes she "did wrong with Whitewater" and that she "was wrong in Benghazi," the Iran nuclear deal and her use of private email during her time as Secretary of State.

"To me: It's an easy choice," he said. "I choose rude over wrong."

Illinois Working Together, the working families advocacy coalition, reacted Tuesday to Trump's fundraising in the state. The group sought to tie Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to Trump.

"As Bruce Rauner continues to play footsie with Donald Trump's toxic presidential campaign, the people of Illinois deserve to know the truth: Rauner has supported Trump for months. Despite Trump's attacks on Gold Star Families, his numerous offensive statements about women, his plan to deport at least 5 million undocumented immigrants, and his description of Mexicans as 'rapists', Governor Rauner has never revised his initial support for Trump as the Republican nominee," Illinois Working Together Campaign Director Jake Lewis said in a statement.

"Though the governor goes to great lengths not to say it, Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner are two peas in a pod," he continued. "Both are billionaire bullies who think their money means they get to play by a different set of rules. Both specialize in using divisive language to pit citizens against one another instead of bringing people together. And both are my-way-or-the-highway businessmen who put profits before working people and don't have the first clue about how to govern."

During his City Club of Chicago remarks, Schneider defended Rauner and his pro-business, anti-union policy agenda.

"He can move anywhere in the country or the world for that matter, and he's chosen to put his foot down and lay his roots right here and try to build a better Illinois," Schneider said. "I hear often enough that our governor is destroying our state -- he's eliminating our social service safety net. And it drives me crazy. You're gonna blame a guy that's been in office for not even two years for the dire condition of the state for the last three decades? That's not a Bruce Rauner's making, it's Bruce Rauner that's trying to fix it."

Schneider also commented on the state of the Illinois Republican Party, saying it has "never been as strong as it is today." The Illinois GOP has received at least $16 million in campaign funds from Rauner so far this year.

"We're gonna win House and Senate seats in November," he said. "I'm not gonna tell you how many, but I got a number in my mind, and I think we're gonna do OK."

The state GOP chair also recognized that the Illinois Republican Party has done a poor job with minority outreach. 

Schneider said he would like to "get out there and go into those minority communities myself and talk to those folks," adding that "once they hear our message, I think they'll vote Republican because the status quo isn't working for 'em, that's for sure."

Although Rauner has donated millions to the Illinois Republican Party this year, he has not been campaigning much with local Republicans. Reporters asked whether local candidates do not want to be associated with Rauner because of his low approval ratings

Schneider dismissed the notion. "I think the governor's very popular in this state," he said. "I think (it's) Mike Madigan that's got the trouble in this state."

Reporters asked Schneider about Tuesday's federal court ruling that blocked Illinois' same-day voter registration rules. Schneider declined to comment on the ruling, saying he had not yet read it.

The conservative Liberty Justice Center sued over the Illinois law that allows Election Day voting and registration at polling places in counties with populations of at least 100,000.

The Liberty Justice Center argues that the law violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause because it makes "it more difficult for people to register to vote in some areas of the state than in others." 

Jacob Huebert, senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, argues that if Illinois has same-day voter registration at polling places, "it should be available statewide. And it should be fair."

A federal judge sided with the plaintiffs in the case today by issuing a preliminary injunction, which temporarily blocks the same-day voter registration rules.

Critics have suggested that the Liberty Justice Center's lawsuit is an effort to reduce voter turnout among Democrats.

"I can't tell you whether it's gonna help more Republicans or more Democrats," Schneider said.

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