A Textbook Victory

Last Sunday evening, we forwarded the results of our final Chicago mayoral race poll to our clients, the Chicago Retail Merchants Association. As is fairly common, they chose to not release them the day before the election, but have now allowed us to do so. Despite swirling rumors of rapid slippage in Rahm Emanuel’s large lead, our poll of 2,000+ Chicago voters instead showed just a bit of consolidation:

Rahm Emanuel54.75%
Miguel del Valle9.91%
Carol Moseley Braun7.75%
Gery Chico22.27%
Patricia Van Pelt Watkins3.45%
William "Doc" Walls 1.87%

Few predicted such a clear-cut majority for Emanuel–most polls seemed to have him teetering excruciatingly close to the 50% + 1 mark needed to avoid a runoff, but Emanuel’s numbers remained strong on the eve of election. Forty-eight hours later, he won the election with 55.2% of the vote. The other candidates finished in the order predicted by the poll (click HERE for the final election results).

While many seemed surprised, in our opinion they should not have been. Rahm had ’em at Hello. Even when Emanuel was merely a rumored candidate, he showed surprisingly strong support in our September 9, 2010 poll (for those results, click HERE). Throughout the subsequent polls we conducted on the race, (November, December, and January) and finishing with the above numbers from February 20, Emanuel continued to build momentum and only gave up a tiny bit of the ground he gained at the very end.

This was a textbook victory for Emanuel; his fundraising (more than $12 million raised, $8 million+ spent) was stellar; he was a fixture shaking hands at Chicago’s El stops even on the worst days of Chicago’s frigid winter, and he stood tall against the vitriol thrown his direction during the contentious residency debate/court battle. While many pundits pontificated that former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun would eventually erode Emanuel’s support in Chicago’s African American community, that simply never happened.

He led the field from rumor to reality.

Weirdness in WI

Right now, Wisconsin has some monster mojo going for it. A few weeks after the Packers’ Super Bowl triumph, Bucky Badger’s  U of W basketball team beat top-ranked Ohio State like a pinata…just months after having their way over the Buckeye’s top-ranked football team. And if all that good fortune for the Dairy State wasn’t enough, Kenosha’s mega-fromage Mecca, Mars Cheese Castle, is celebrating it’s move to a new home by offering a special on fruit cheese. Good times!

Apparently, all that largess hasn’t immunized Wisconsin from new political turmoil. It all began with Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to call a special session of the state legislature to present his emergency plan to combat Wisconsin’s huge deficit. As reported by Reuters:

“The proposal includes limiting state employee wage increases to the rate of inflation unless approved in a voter referendum. Public employees — other than police, fire, and inspectors — would lose many bargaining rights and could opt out of paying union dues after current contracts expire, with dues no longer collected automatically. State workers will have to increase contributions to their pensions to 5.8 percent of salary, and double contributions to health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent of salary.”

KaBoom! While Wisconsin has a history of offering up a policy pendulum that swings a wide swath in both directions, the vitriol flowing from the eruption on this issue has been absolutely Vesuvian. Folks from both extremes are blogging at a furious pace which is whipping the debate winds to gale-force levels. To make matters even more interesting, that state’s Senate Democrats disappeared yesterday–the day they were supposed to vote on the issue. While there is a GOP majority in the State Senate, it’s close enough that no quorum would be possible without the Democrats. Poof! They went into hiding, and the governor has the state police out looking for them. (Hint to Wisconsin state troopers: some from the Rockford, Illinois area claim that local beer distributors have been running low on their supply of Schlitz. Coincidence?)

So, with missing lawmakers and increasing volumes of local opinion, the national media has naturally picked up this story. Many now consider Wisconsin a swing state, so the political implications here cannot be ignored. And when President Obama jumped into the fray yesterday, his involvement was not by accident. Earlier polling showed a large margin of support for Gov. Walker’s initiative, but the national reaction since then has been truly remarkable. And when the President addresses the subject, it is bound to have an effect.

For those reasons, we polled nearly 2,400 Wisconsin residents last night about the issue and their views of the Senate Democrats’ disappearing act. Besides some demographic questions we asked two main questions. The first one was:

As you may know, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a plan to limit the pay of government workers and teachers, increase their share of the cost of benefits, and strip some public-employ unions of much of their power. We’d like to know if APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of Gov. Walker’s plan.

Here are those results:

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 2,397 Wisconsin residents
Date of Poll: 2/17/201
Margin of Error: ±2.0%

Then we asked them:

It was reported today that Democratic state senators have left the capitol in order to prevent a vote of Gov. Walker’s measures. Do you think that the Democratic state senators should return to the state capitol to vote on the issue?

Here’s their responses to that question:

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 2,397 registered voters
Date of Poll: 2/17/2011
Margin of Error: ±2.0%

It would appear that–for now, at least–the public tide has turned against Gov. Walker’s proposals. But Wisconsin remains a state that historically has rewarded those with policies that went beyond the safety lines of more timid politicians. And we’ve seen opinions move more rapidly here than most other states we’ve polled. Did the President and national media influence last night’s results? Perhaps. We’ll keep our eye on this situation to see if another poll is warranted. And–all previous kidding aside–please note that we view Wisconsin’s knack for dramatic debate as a refreshing change over the predictable meanderings in most other locales.

This one is a long way from being over.

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