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Opinion: How the IL GOP has Turned Gov. Ron DeSantis Into Their Own Version of the Richard Irvin Campaign for Governor



By Mark Vargas and Scott Kaspar

It’s déjà vu all over again in Illinois, and the same Republican party establishment that supported the failed Richard Irvin for governor campaign, is now backing their choice for president. And like Irvin, their preferred candidate continues to struggle on the campaign trail and in the polls – making Ron DeSantis their new ‘Richard Irvin’, in yet another sad and embarrassing chapter for the IL GOP elites.

Looking back, the thought of Aurora mayor Richard Irvin running for governor as a Republican was laughable.

After all, he not only pulled Democratic Primary ballots in 2014, 2016 and 2020, but Irvin also spent years praising Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker – referring to him as a “great friend and a great leader.”

What? But that’s not all.

In 2020, Irvin attended a Black Lives Matter rally, yelling, “I can’t breathe!” – a phrase often used by anti-police groups around the country.

But during the primary campaign, IL GOP leaders went out of their way to defend Irvin’s Republican credentials – if that’s even possible – including IL GOP chair Don Tracy and IL GOP national committeeman Richard Porter – a close ally to Tracy and the chief architect of the Irvin campaign who also served as co-chairman and advisor during his gubernatorial campaign.

Irvin would go on to lose the primary election by an astonishing 43 points, despite billionaire Ken Griffin dumping $50 million into his campaign, and racking up over 60 endorsements from IL GOP leaders from across the state.

That’s right – 43 points.

Although Irvin had attracted a mega donor and support from IL GOP leaders from across the spectrum, he failed to attract any real attention on the campaign trail from the people who matter most: the actual voters.

Illinois grassroots Republicans – the most powerful constituency in the state had sent a message to establishment Republicans that was loud and clear – that Irvin’s campaign was “dead on arrival.”

And it was.

Although no one can question Gov. DeSantis’ Republican credentials – he’s been a great governor in Florida – they can question the strategy behind his failing campaign.

For the last few years, DeSantis was viewed as the future of the Republican party and the presumptive frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president because of his bold leadership as governor during the pandemic.

However, many forget that during the early days of the pandemic, DeSantis shut down the state; advocated for residents to social distance; wear face coverings and get vaccinated.

DeSantis even praised Dr. Anthony Fauci.

That’s right, it’s all true.

And just two days before the Illinois General Election in 2022, Ken Griffin – Irvin’s mega donor and close ally to the IL GOP, gave an interview with Politico where he said he was ready to back DeSantis for president.

But when DeSantis announced his campaign for president on Twitter many months later in May, the announcement was riled with glitches and audio issues, making it virtually impossible to hear the Florida governor make his big announcement.

For DeSantis and his campaign, it was a humiliating experience. But that was just the beginning.

Not only has DeSantis struggled in the polls, where he trails frontrunner President Donald Trump by over 40 points, but he’s failed to gain any traction at campaign events.

In a photo that went viral a month ago, DeSantis was seen speaking to an empty room in Iowa. And that’s not a good optic when you are running for president of the United States.

GOP presidential candidate and Fl. Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to an empty room in Iowa. (Source: X)

And where’s the IL GOP?

They’re doubling down on their support of DeSantis and advocating why he’s still the better alternative to President Trump and the better candidate in a head-to-head with President Joe Biden.

Makes one wonder if Illinois Republican leaders are intentional on picking the losing candidates because they actually don’t want to win. If they did, they would be rallying around the frontrunner.

They didn’t rally around the frontrunner during the Illinois Republican primary, and they are not rallying around the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, either.

Perhaps they are proving that whatever they touch dies – and the end game is not to win – the end game is to maintain status quo – and that’s their status as the party in the minority.

And that’s sad.

Mark Vargas is Editor-in-Chief of Illinois Review and a columnist with Newsmax. From 2007-2010, he served as a civilian in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, traveling to Baghdad, Iraq 14 times. Follow Mark on X at @MarkAVargas.

Scott Kaspar is Publisher of Illinois Review and a 20-year trial lawyer licensed in Illinois, Iowa, Colorado, and California, who has handled and won complex litigations in federal courts across the country. He can be followed on X at @ScottKaspar.


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  1. The Northwest Suburban Lincoln Day Dinner event included a straw poll. Every attendee was given one ballot which listed all of the announced Republican presidential candidates.

    When the results were announced, it was not even close.

    To the shock and chagrin of the establishment Republican leadership, the same folks who backed Irvin, DeSantis got smoked. Trump received 47% of the straw poll vote. DeSantis was a distant second with 22% while Haley was third with 11%. None of the other candidates collected more than a scattered number of votes.