Trump Poised to Steal Credit From J.B. Pritzker for Illinois MAGA Win

Thanks to Illinois Democrats, state Senator Darren Bailey scored his party's nomination in Tuesday's GOP primary. But despite the boost from Bailey's rivals, his win will most likely be claimed by Donald Trump as he looks to patch up his endorsement record.

Bailey, a fervent Trump supporter in a deeply conservative district in central Illinois, earned the former president's endorsement just three days before the Republican primary. And while Trump is poised to claim credit for his candidate's success, Bailey can attribute his victory to Governor J.B. Pritzker.

That's because Pritzker and other state Democrats made Bailey's opponent—Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, the former front-runner in the GOP race—a target. This inadvertently gave Bailey a boost among conservative voters while securing the position of a candidate Pritzker is more likely to defeat in the general election.

Over the past couple of months, Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent a combined $34 million on the Republican primary, blasting Irvin on the airwaves to dissuade GOP voters from casting their ballots for a candidate whom ads said wasn't conservative enough.

At the same time, the Democrats' ads about Bailey helped him with Republican voters by arguing that his policies "are just too conservative for Illinois."

Trump Pritzker Bailey Illinois
Former President Donald Trump is likely to take credit for Darren Bailey's primary win in Illinois, but his candidate was surging ahead of his GOP opponents well before Trump's endorsement. Above, Trump arrives to give remarks during a Save America Rally on June 25 in Mendon, Illinois. Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

The Democrats' plan appeared to work, as Irvin's campaign quickly sank in favor of Bailey's. Polls showed that Bailey was already favored to win the primary, with a lead of more than 16 points over Irvin, before Trump's endorsement came on Saturday.

But after primary losses in Georgia, Idaho and Nebraska, Trump will be looking for any victories to bolster his endorsement record and get it closer to where it was at the beginning of this year's election cycle.

"Darren is just the man to take on and defeat one of the worst governors in America," Trump said at the Saturday rally, referring to his longtime critic Pritzker.

Even though some of Trump's candidates failed to beat Republicans in some of the most-watched races this year, his endorsement remains influential among GOP voters. More than 100 of his picks have won their primaries.

Some experts have cautioned that the Democrats' reverse-psychology approach could backfire by the time of the general elections in November. And their efforts to help Bailey have not gone unnoticed by the ultraconservative candidate, who has warned the governor that he might win over enough Illinois voters to crush his chances of reelection.

"I think it's obvious Governor Pritzker thinks I'm the easiest candidate to beat, and my message to Governor Pritzker is 'be careful what you wish for because it's coming right toward you,'" Bailey told Chicago's WLS-TV before Tuesday's primary.