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.