Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The un-prediction

I don’t know who is going to win come Tuesday’s primary elections in Illinois. Anybody who claims to know is lying to you.

I look at the same polls everybody else does, takes in the same comments from the candidates and tries to make some judgments based on people I actually come into contact with. While it is clear that everybody is angry with the current state of the economy, it seems to me that most people think it’s somebody else’s fault.

IF ONLY ALL people could think just like they do, then everything would be fine.

If it reads like I’m saying that there isn’t much rationality behind the thought process being put into deciding who to vote for come Election Day, you’d be correct.

Which is why I don’t have a clue how things will turn out Tuesday night (or perhaps even the early hours of Wednesday).

Take the campaigns for governor – both of which seem to be tied up. The Chicago Tribune polls show incumbent Pat Quinn with a slight lead, while a poll conducted by Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling shows opponent Dan Hynes leading that primary. Of course, both of those leads are so slim that they fall within the margin of error – which is what the political professionals like to call a statistical tie.

CONSIDERING THE ADVANTAGES that Quinn had over Hynes a month ago, the fact that the Illinois comptroller has even been able to make this a competitive political fight is something that Quinn ought to be ashamed of.

Should Hynes be able to get the Democratic nomination, how willing will Democrats be to unite behind him? Could this turn out to be the repeat of ’76, when establishment Dems fought hard to dump incumbent Dan Walker and succeeded in the primary – only to have a candidate weakened by the fight so that he lost to GOPer Jim Thompson (beginning that 26-year streak of Republican governors that some Illinois Republicans thought the office was their party’s birthright).

Will it turn out that the real winner of the Democratic primary for governor will be Lisa Madigan, who reportedly wanted to run for the post but did not want to sully up her reputation with a nasty fight against an incumbent political ally?

Of course, the Democratic nominee’s chances of winning the November general election will depend heavily upon who the Republican nominee turns out to be. That primary is an even bigger mess than the Democrats – and the more ideological types who make up a significant part of the GOP base are exactly the types to have a tantrum by refusing to vote if their preferred candidate doesn’t get the nomination.

ANY TIME YOU have candidates claiming they are doing well because polls show them getting close to 20 percent support, you know it’s a log-jam.

It would appear that former state Attorney General Jim Ryan is no longer the front-runner. Of course, that early status was due to the fact that most people hadn’t paid much attention to the campaigns, and his was one of the few familiar names.

It’s just like all of the most recent campaigns of another former state attorney general. Now U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., ran campaigns before for the U.S. Senate and for Illinois governor and usually had the lead in the early polls, only to wind up finishing far behind the pack as would-be voters realized they wanted somebody (anybody) else.

Of course, that same poll showing the Democratic gubernatorial campaign as a virtual tie favoring Hynes shows Ryan lagging only six percentage points behind the so-called frontrunner, fellow DuPage County resident Kirk Dillard.

THIS IS THE bizarre primary from my perspective, since Dillard appears to be the favorite of those Republicans of the Chicago suburbs (there aren’t enough devoted GOPers in the city proper to amount to much), while opponent Pat Brady is the preference of those Republicans who live outside the Chicago area and would prefer to have a candidate with no urban ties whatsoever.

With the Chicago area accounting for two-thirds of Illinois’ population, that normally would make Dillard the favorite, except that he loses a chunk of that support to Andrew McKenna, who has some establishment Republicans favoring him and other GOP supporters detesting him because they remember his stint as chairman of the state Republican Party (he didn’t make any headway in terms of winning elections, which is why Illinois has a government that is controlled entirely by Democratic Party members).

To me, that Republican side seems like a mess – one that has the potential to create a lot of dissention come Election Day in November.

The U.S. Senate campaigns seem less confusing. Public Policy Polling’s latest study released Monday of that campaign seems to show the candidates who were thought of as frontrunners before the campaigns maintaining solid leads.

SO IT COULD become Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias running against U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., for the right to represent all of Illinois in the Senate. Kirk backers are making much of the fact that this poll shows Kirk leading with 42 percent support, while none of his half-dozen challengers has more than 10 percent.

But I couldn’t help but notice the truel second-place finisher is not Patrick Hughes (9 percent). It is “undecided” at 39 percent. Having that many partisans this close to Election Day unable to commit makes me wonder if the Kirk campaign has the potential to stir up apathy and resentment – similar to what Democrats experienced in 1998 when then-Congressman Glenn Poshard of Southern Illinois won the nomination for governor and many Democrats from the Chicago area never got over that fact.

Which makes me wonder if Giannoulias is destined to follow the fate (thus far) of his one-time basketball buddy, Barack Obama, who won his presidential campaign in part because of apathy among conservatives toward Republican challenger John McCain – only to have those same conservatives now watching Obama’s every move and doing whatever they can to thwart him.

Will the day come that Giannoulias will wish he had stayed in the Illinois treasurer’s office for another term or two?


EDITOR’S NOTE: The cliché is most definitely accurate this time around – the only “poll” that matters is the one ( taken on Election Day.

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