The March 18 primary election in Illinois is only nine weeks away and it appears three of the candidates seeking the Republican gubernatorial nominations are taking a page out of the same book: attack the frontrunner who has the most money.
Last week, state Sen. Kirk Dillard's running mate, state Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy, attacked equity investor Bruce Rauner for his lack of attention to downstate Illinois as he kicked off a 30-plus-stop statewide bus tour.
Candidates also blasted Rauner last week for his position on the state's minimum wage, which he initially said should be lowered by a buck an hour, before later backtracking when polling showed that voters overwhelmingly disapproved.
Sen. Bill Brady, who narrowly lost to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in 2010, told The Southern Illinoisan that Rauner was "out of touch." State Treasurer Dan Rutherford also said he would be against lowering the minimum wage.
It's not hard for the three to team up on Rauner, considering the momentum the generally unknown Winnetka resident has been gaining in the polls.
A Nov. 26 poll conducted by We Ask America showed Rauner was leading the pack with 26.2 percent of the vote. Brady received 18.1 percent, Rutherford 16.6 percent and Dillard 10.3 percent. However, 28.7 percent of the respondents were still undecided.
Rauner has been raking in considerable more money than any of his rivals.
In the third quarter, Rauner received $1.061 million in contributions and spent $1.109 million, and ended with $594,000 still in the bank. The campaign dough hasn't stopped.
Rauner announced Jan. 2 that his campaign brought in more than $4 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. Rauner donated $1 million to his campaign in that quarter and has since contributed another $1 million.
The campaign appears to be spending it. Rauner is hitting the airways across the state, including in Quincy. The other candidates have yet to go on TV, although ads should be appearing soon if they have any hopes of stopping the Rauner momentum.
However, funding -- or lack of it -- is a major issue. After all, good campaign ads are expensive to produce and air, especially with Chicago and its suburbs -- the third biggest market in the nation.
Rutherford may have the best chance. His campaign ended the third quarter with $1.211 million in the bank after it raised $337,000 during that period. In the fourth quarter, the campaign reported $263,890 in contributions of $1,000 or more.
Dillard's campaign ended the third quarter with $108,000 in the bank and received $187,600 in large contributions in the fourth quarter. Since the start of 2014, the campaign has brought in another $94,600.
The campaign that appears in trouble is Brady's. His campaign reported only $66,100 in contributions and $72,548 on hand in the third quarter, although his campaign fund from the 2010 election still has a balance of $200,000.
However, Brady's campaign scooted in under the radar in a field of seven candidates in the 2010 primary.
But this is not a field of unknowns in Illinois -- outside of the frontrunner.
Rutherford received more votes in his run for treasurer than Quinn did for governor in 2010, Dillard narrowly lost the 2010 Republican primary and previously served as chief of staff for former Gov. Jim Edgar, and Brady has been in the General Assembly since 1993.
But all three are going to have to step up their game if they hope to take on Rauner.