Illinois Governor’s Race

Shortly after John F. Kennedy was elected President, a young student reporter asked him how he became a war hero. Kennedy’s response: “They sank my boat.” Therein lies the plight of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who holds the office of governor only because federal authorities sank Blago’s boat. Quinn has been a fixture on the Illinois political scene for decades and is a former State Treasurer. He has sky-high name recognition due to his numerous past positions and populist causes he has championed. And, in fairness, while he was Rod Blagojevich’s running mate twice, he did openly criticize Blago during some of His Hairness’ more scatter-brained moments.

Quinn’s Republican challenger is Bloomington State Senator Bill Brady. Brady won a squeaker primary (by less than 200 votes) in his second bid for the Republican nomination. A strong anti-tax platform and resume is leading Brady’s campaign, although he’s received a fair amount of criticism about being vague on how to balance the state’s budget. But Brady has improved noticeably in recent weeks and seems to hitting a winning stride. While Quinn has openly discussed a number of tax increase scenarios and preached fiscal responsibility, published reports exposed some sizable raises to his top staff. The public’s strong negative reaction knocked Quinn off balance, and he doesn’t seem to be able to regain it. But Quinn is a true fighter who surprised people during a vicious primary. He’s not going to just fade away.

Full disclosure: We Ask America is a spin-off from a company that is a spin-off of a trade association with a PAC that has endorsed Bill Brady (convoluted enough for you?). To complicate matters further, we were hired to poll the Illinois primary race by the candidate who Brady narrowly defeated. If you think all that taints this poll, stop reading.

Complicating this race are three other candidates: Independent Scott Lee Cohen, Green Party’s Rich Whitney, and Libertarian Lex Green. Cohen was the Democratic winning candidate for Lt. Governor who surprised everyone with his victory. Why the surprise? Well…he’s a pawn broker with an arrest record for allegedly attacking his prostitute girl friend (charges were dropped). Oops. The Chicago newspapers howled to high heaven over it, and the state Democratic Party adroitly found a way to get him to withdraw at a tearful press conference conducted from a neighborhood saloon. Goodbye, Mr. Cohen. Right?

Not so fast…it turns our Scott Lee Cohen didn’t really want to go quietly into the night. He passed enough petitions to get onto the ballot as an Independent candidate for governor. His brash style, pocketful of cash and Regular Guy approach has earned him a bit of a cult-like following among a fed-up electorate. But Cohen isn’t the only wrinkle in this race. Rich Whitney-the Green Party candidate-scored more than 10 percent of the vote for governor four years ago and is back at it in 2010. And Libertarian Lex Green is out there making his case as well.

Let’s see what all that means when we asked 1,330 voters on September 13 who they would vote for if the election for governor were held that day:

Illinois Governor

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 1,330 Likely voters
Date of Poll: 9/13/2010
Margin of Error: ±2.70%
 TOTALChicagoSub. CookCollarDownstate
Pat Quinn (D)32.43%49.85%32.85%29.61%23.48%
Bill Brady (R)41.95%17.34%41.24%46.38%53.79%
Rich Whitney (G)3.54%3.41%4.38%4.61%2.27%
Scott Lee Cohen (I)5.06%8.364.38%4.61%3.79%
Lex Green (L)1.65%1.24%1.46%1.97%1.77%

Note that Cohen and Whitney combined are grabbing nearly 12 percent of the vote out of Chicago…the epicenter of Pat Quinn’s base. It’s still early, but if Mr. Quinn can’t convince his base to come home, he may be in serious trouble come November 2. Here are the party-affiliation crosstabs for those inclined to like those things:

Pat Quinn (D)32.43%9.58%59.06%27.1%
Bill Brady (R)41.95%79.55%14.54%41.97%
Rich Whitney (G)3.54%0.64%2.46%5.28%
Scott Lee Cohen (I)5.06%2.24%3.8%9.35%
Lex Green (L)1.65%0.64%1.12%1.92%

NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America. The information has not been shared with any candidate or campaign.

Illinois Senate Re-visted

“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” – Mae West

The Illinois Senate race features two damaged mainstream candidates and two others who may greatly influence the final outcome. Republican Mark Kirk (left in above photo) remains in simmering water over fudging a perfectly respectable military record, while Democrat Alexi Giannoulias (right) lugs around a very questionable financial background based on  activities at a family-owned bank. And while the Green Party’s LeAlan Jones and Libertarian Mike Labno offer alternative choices, neither have the resources or personal wherewithal to do much more than serve as spoilers for the mainstream candidates.

We polled the Illinois Senate race on September 13 to see which way the voters are leaning in the choice between two candidates with significant personal problems. Here are the results:

Illinois Senate

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 1,379 Likely voters
Date of Poll: 9/13/2010
Margin of Error: ±2.64%
 TOTALChicagoSub. CookCollarDownstate
Mark Kirk (R)38.65%17.90%36.39%48.89%45.54%
Alexi Giannoulias (D)36.32%56.82%37.07%32.70%25.54%
LeAlan Jones (G)4.14%4.26%4.08%4.13%4.10%
Mike Labno (L)2.11%0.85%2.38%1.90%2.89%

We’ve included a regional breakdown in this poll to see where each candidate’s support is based (poll responses from each region closely matched the average turnout over the last few elections–Chicago: 21% – Suburban Cook: 21% – Collar Counties: 25% – Downstate: 33%). Giannoulias is pounding Kirk in Chicago (no surprise), but not as strongly as he could. While Kirk continues to do well downstate, the battleground here will probably end up being in all-important Suburban Cook County.

Let’s look at the  party affiliation crosstabs to ascertain how the Green Party and Libertarian candidates are affecting the outcome:

Mark Kirk (R)38.65%81.79%8.50%39.57%
Alexi Giannoulias (D)36.32%5.75%70.25%30.70%
LeAlan Jones (G)4.14%0.64%2.91%6.24%
Mike Labno (L)2.11%1.28%0.67%3.60%

If this election remains tight, LeAlan Jones (G) and Mike Labno (L) will have a true impact on the decision. The Illinois Green Party remains small, but very active in Illinois, and their current candidate for governor, Rich Whitney, scored 10.36 percent of the vote in the previous election.

We’ll be watching this one closely.

NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America. The information has not been shared with any candidate or campaign.

Missouri CD 4

Over the past few weeks, several acquaintances have express the opinion that Missouri’s 3rd and 4th Congressional districts may just be the Ones to Watch in the polls (as a friend said…“the gateway to heaven or hell depending on which side you’re on and which way it goes…“). Both districts offer an intriguing set of circumstances in one of the most fascinating election years in memory. Here’s the lowdown on Missouri 4:

Missouri CD 4: Incumbent Ike Skelton (D) vs Vicky Hartzler (R)

MO 4 encompasses west central part of the state including Kansas City eastern ‘burbs and Jefferson City. This district is tabbed with a R+14 by the Cook Political Report, and the conservative Democrat Ike Skelton has been untouchable here since 1977. But in 2008,  MO 4 supported John McCain with more than 60% of the vote, and this district is a poster child for Big Government discontent, so many are keeping an eye on this race for any signs of havoc in the heartland.

The Republican challenger is Vicky Hartzler, a former state representative and spokesman for the Coalition to Protect Marriage–a group that helped pass by a wide margin a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Skelton has always enjoyed a big crossover vote due to his conservative roots, but has backed the party line on some issues that social conservatives dislike. Will those votes and the current throw-the-bums-out mentality be enough to knock off the venerable Skelton? Cue the poll results…

Missouri CD 4

Date of Poll: 8/17/2010
Participants: 1,207 registered voters
Margin of Error: ±2.82%
Ike Skelton45.18%26.61%79.23%36.59%
Vicky Hartzler41.73%61.59%15.43%40.55%

We were surprised to not only find this one so close, but that the trends we’ve measured elsewhere are weak here. While it is no surprise that Skelton is receiving a sizable chunk (26+ percent) of the GOP vote, Hartzler’s 15% of the Democratic nod is an eye opener. The small but important lead Hartzler has with Independents–if it stays–is putting this race at the very top of our Watch List.

While conventional wisdom may dictate that Skelton will pull this one out, there isn’t too much conventional about this year’s elections.

Shocker in Chicago

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s retirement announcement hit the State of Illinois like a thunderclap. After more than two decades presiding over one of the nation’s most diverse constituencies, the residents of Chicago will choose a new mayor next year from a long–and growing–list of possible candidates.

While we fully accept the argument that it is way too early to be polling for replacements for Hizzoner, the political buzz the announcement created in the City of Broad Shoulders is palpable, and we simply can’t resist throwing out the first polling pitch.

But who to choose? As we pull the trigger on this poll, we’ve found 40+ possible candidates mentioned in published reports, with more queuing up for consideration. We wanted to narrow it down to ten (because there’s only ten digits on a phone for an automated poll), so we added up the articles and chose the ten who were mentioned in the most clippings–not exactly as precise our usual polls…but what the heck. This is for fun.

Who made the cut?

  • Alderman Ed Burke
  • Former Commerce Secretary (and First Brother) Bill Daley
  • Cook County Sheriff (and former State Rep) Tom Dart
  • Presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
  • Alderman Bob Fioretti
  • Congressman Luis Gutierrez
  • Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan
  • Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr
  • Reverend/State Senator/Education reformer James Meeks; and
  • CTA Chairman (and former Housing Authority Chief) Terry Peterson

Since the options  were asked in alphabetical order using names only…no descriptive narrative…about the best we can assume is that name recognition played a big role in this survey. Let’s look at the results: (remember: the TOTAL column gives the aggregate results, followed by a breakdown by ethnic origin.)

Chicago Mayoral Poll

Ed Burke6.31%5.44%7.07%3.38%8.74%4.00%
Bill Daley8.16%5.58%20.20%7.59%10.72%3.50%
Tom Dart13.66%7.44%6.06%5.91%24.26%12.50%
Rahm Emanuel29.68%34.53%21.21%21.94%30.04%23.50%
Bob Fiorietti2.95%2.39%3.03%2.53%2.82%6.00%
Luis Guitierrez12.81%6.24%10.10%50.63%7.19%14.00%
Jim Houlihan2.30%1.20%2.02%1.27%4.09%1.50%
Jesse Jackson Jr13.36%20.85%18.18%4.64%5.92%19.50%
James Meeks8.21%13.41%6.06%1.69%4.09%12.00%
Terry Peterson2.55%2.92%6.06%0.42%2.12%3.50%

Clearly, presidential CoS and former congressman Rahm Emanuel has a strong lead among this very vague preliminary test of 2,365 Chicago voters. Emanuel holds sway with both white and black voters in this city that gave the nation President Obama and leaves some fairly well-known competitors in the dust. Again, the list of possible candidates was largely built on speculation by political pundits and other Really Smart People, so keep that in mind. And remember…THIS IS FOR FUN.

Isn’t it?


Poll stats:

2,365 participants

Ethnic breakdown:
African American: 37.69%
Asian: 4.95%
Hispanic: 11.86%
White: 35.49%
Other/Refused: 10.01%

By request: Illinois CD 17

By a landslide, the most-requested poll I receive emails on is Illinois’s 17th Congressional District. Long a Democratic stronghold of former Congressman Lane Evans, CD 17 is one of the…well…squirreliest-drawn districts in the nation. It meanders around the western edge of the Land of Lincoln, occasionally jutting out like an amoeba getting ready to divide. The largest population in this district can be found in the Quad Cities (Rock Island/Moline), Quincy, and bits of Springfield and Decatur. The Quad Cities is decidedly blue collar, conservative and Democratic.

Democrat Phil Hare, Lane Evan’s former CoS, has held this seat since 2006, but has run into a bit of trouble as of late. A rather unfortunate quote regarding the U.S. Constitution started the ball rolling downhill for Hare, but few thought he’d be pushed hard by Republican pizzeria-owner Bobby Schilling. To complicate matters for Hare, the district has a Green Party candidate, Roger Davis.

Let’s see the poll results:

Illinois CD 17

Date of Poll: September 8, 2010
Participants: 1,250
Margin of Error: ±2.77%
(D) Phil Hare38.41%9.60%73.09%22.63%
(R) Bobby Schilling41.15%79.66%8.75%44.41%
(G) Roger Davis3.85%1.13%2.84%7.82%

There appears to be a reason so many had urged polling in Illinois 17. The fact that the very conservative Schilling is in a statistical tie with Hare is once again an indication of change–especially among Independent voters.  It’s impossible from this poll to measure where the Green Party’s Roger Davis is pulling his nearly 4% — but that slice of the pie may have a huge impact on the final outcome in November.