Tuesday, February 02, 2010


It's Primary Time! Illinois Style

Illinois voters will head to the polls in a couple of hours to determine who will be the Democratic and Republican nominees for Governor and United States Senator in 2010. A few weeks it look as if we knew the winners in three of those races (Democratic Gubernatorial and Senatorial and Republican Senatorial), but now the polls look like a complete mess on the Democratic side. Incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn's once large lead over State Comptroller Dan Hynes for the Democratic nomination for Governor has evaporated. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias cannot seem to get above 30% in the polls, and Former US Assistant District Attorney David Hoffman has risen into the high 10's, low 20's in the race to fill the US Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. So what is going to happen when the votes are counted tonight?

Believe it or not, I believe the Democratic Gubernatorial contest is probably going to be called relatively early tonight. The trend lines are all in Hynes' direction. He has risen Quinn's unfavorables by riding a host of negative ads that make voters question Quinn's handling of the state's inmate release program and budget. Unfortunately for this prognosticator, the polls may be missing a lot of action.

In the final week of the campaign, Hynes released an ad featuring the venerable first black Mayor of Chicago Harold Washington lambasting Quinn for incompetence in Washington's administration. Quinn, who is relying on strong African-American support, fired back with accusations of Hynes' own fumbling over the Burr Cemetery disaster (a sore point for black voters). The only polls taken after the ads' release, a Public Policy and a Rasmussen poll, suggested that Hynes is still rising, but both polls were taken just after the ads' release. I am not confident that these polls fully registered the firestorm caused by the ads. The polls also missed what was arguably Quinn's strongest debate performance on Friday.

All that said, one must think the ads probably cancel each other out. They are both negative, and they probably both help to drive up the opponent's negative ratings. I do not think the ads had much of an overall effect on the direction of this race, but I really do not know. One important point to take into account is that the final polls that asked voters' favorable opinions of the candidates found Hynes had higher net favorables (favorable rating - unfavorable rating). Even the Chicago Tribune poll that had Quinn up by 4 had Hynes with a 6 point higher net favorable rating. In the Rasmussen poll, more voters held a favorable view of Hynes, despite more viewers not holding an opinion of him. Typically undecideds go to the challenger, and I expect this time will be no different. I estimate based on all the numbers that Hynes pulls out a surprisingly large victory (10+ points possible).

As for the United States Senate race, I really do not know what to say. Giannoulias looked to be cruising for the nomination, but ties to a shady family bank have really hurt him in the press (who incidentally enough have overwhelmingly endorsed his opponent). Like the Gubernatorial primary, the underdog, Hoffman, has seen his numbers double in the past month and a half. Of course, Hoffman started in a much lower position than Hynes. Giannoulias net favorables remain higher than Hoffman's, unlike what we see in the Gubernatorial contest.

Finally, Giannoulias', unlike Quinn's, approval rating remains the same as it did last month. Charges of Giannoulias' electability (stemming from the bank problems) seem to be the only thing that are holding him from jumping to a huge lead.

With a third candidate Cheryle Jackson (whose support is likely to be contained to African-Americans) taking about 20% of the vote, the winning candidate will only need about 40% to win. Giannoulias is right near the finish line, but something is just irking me about the fact that despite higher net favorables and high approvals, he cannot pull away. And like the Gubernatorial race, the final days' actions (bank tie hits against Giannoulias) are not registered by the polls. I have to give the edge to Giannoulias by the pure math of it, but I really would not be shocked by any outcome.

On the Republican side, Congressman Mark Kirk will easily win the nomination for United States Senate, and, as the chart below shows, nobody can have any clue who will the Gubernatorial primary. I am not going to even try to guess.

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