Our friend Rich Miller of Capitol Fax fame wrote today about the nature of some past elections to take unforeseen swerves in the road. Since a number of people have contacted us about that very subject, and about whether our latest poll for the Illinois GOP governor’s race is “projectable” (meaning, can those results mathematically be manipulated to project the final outcome) we decided to post this analysis. The need to jump to conclusions should be avoided here, and we feel compelled present the following.
Can poll results be projected? Maybe, but slow down, Buckaroos. As Capitol Fax pointed out, Illinois has a history of producing big shifts of opinion in its collective political thinking—and it can happen quickly.
First, take a look at the chart below that plots our 2010 GOP tracking polls and then read the detail below it. (You can click on the chart to enlarge it.)
Note that the dark red line representing undecided votes stops on January 27th, 2010. After that we started asked our participants to make a choice with an undecided option.
In 2010, the Primary Election was held on February 2. Republican Kirk Dillard led the field going into the final week before the Primary. But Andy McKenna had been pounding Dillard and Jim Ryan with a huge TV buy of negative ads for weeks and Dillard’s progress slowed. Finally, after untold negative ads slapping the Hinsdale State Senator around, Dillard finally dipped in the polls, as did Ryan.
At the same time, Bill Brady was largely ignored by the hoi polloi. His downstate ads were modest in rating points, but spoke directly to a Republican base that was clearly peering across the horizon to look for an answer. In racing terms, circumstances put Brady in an ideal position to “draft” behind the frontrunners until the final lap.
From Jan. 27 to Feb. 1, the dynamic changed dramatically. Brady caught Dillard at the end line with a photo finish. Our Election Eve poll captured that and we duly reported our results to an incredulous audience. The next day they were believers.
Can someone make those kinds of gains again? You bet they can, and—ironically—it may be Dillard who is best positioned to do so this time around. But the dynamic is very different now. Both Dillard and Brady are getting pounded on social media, online ads, radio and TV courtesy of Mr. Rauner. The fourth candidate—State Treasurer Dan Rutherford—is trailing at a distance. A hypothetical ten-point jump in the polls by Dillard simply wouldn’t get him close enough unless it was accompanied by a free fall by Rauner.
No one here is sloughing off union claims that they’re asking their members to pull Republican ballots and vote for Dillard. They may even have a fair amount of success with that program. The problem is the steep angle of the hill they’re trying to climb.
After we encouraged you to not project poll findings, we’re going to do just that. But we think you’ll understand why we’re ignoring our suggestion when you see the following.
Below is a chart showing what the final outcome of the Illinois GOP Primary race for governor would be based on our latest tracking poll. If you assume a modest 750,000 Republican voter turnout, the chart shows you how many votes those percentages would translate into for each candidate in the Primary. Finally, we show you how many votes it would take to catch Bruce Rauner.
Here’s the chart:
So if nothing else changes, unions would have to find more than a quarter million voters who are willing to 1) pull a Republican ballot; and 2) vote for Kirk Dillard. Partisan voters often find it very difficult to pull an enemy ballot. Finding 250,000+ people to do so is a Herculean task.
Of course, monitoring that situation is relatively easy, and you can bet the We Ask America gnomes will keep their beady eyes on that, especially in Cook County.
With the dynamics involved, predicting the precise outcome of the Illinois GOP Primary for governor is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle in a hurricane.
But for now, Mr. Rauner’s likeness is still on the box.