CLEVELAND – No, Governor Rauner isn't in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, but the people that take credit for getting him into the Governor's Mansion are there now, leading Indiana Governor Mike Pence's bid for vice-president.
Nick Ayers, who worked with twin brothers Mike and Chris Schrimpf on the 2014 Rauner campaign, was heading up Pence's re-election campaign, and now he's moved with Pence onto the national campaign level. Before the Rauner campaign, Ayers directed the Republican Governor's Association and Governor Tim Pawlenty's short-lived 2012 presidential bid.
Chicago Magazine's Carol Fesenthal writes about Ayers:
Pence’s vice presidential race is headed by the same operative, Nick Ayers, who ran Rauner’s 2014 race for governor. Ayers described himself to me in a telephone call last year as a key player in Rauner’s campaign—the guy who drafted the campaign plan, hired staff, and handled media buying. He said, “I was the one who on election night [November 4, 2014] called [Rauner] and Diana in their hotel suite and told them we had won. I gave them the news before the AP called it.”
And she writes later …
Ayers claims credit for later talking Mike Schrimpf into working for Rauner as communications chief, before the venture capitalist formally entered the race. Schrimpf stayed on during the campaign, and until well into Rauner’s first term. Chris Schrimpf worked for John Kasich in his failed race for the presidential nomination and is still working as the Ohio governor’s spokesman.
And that's got to be an interesting dilemma in the Schrimpf family, since Chris Schrimpf is working as spokesman for Kasich, who will not endorse Trump nor attend the RNC Convention even though it's being held in his home state.
But these close ties with Rauner's "old campaign band" could open the way for Rauner to cozy up to Trump as the campaign season kicks into gear. However, the nasty comments between Rauner's favorite Mark Kirk and presidential hopeful Donald Trump could keep the national race at arm's length.
Perhaps that will be evident by the annual State Fair Governor's Day, which this year will feature Republicans in Illinois.