Friday, August 1, 2014

Rauner leads Quinn; is that shocking at this stage of Ill. electoral game?

I do believe one bit of truth is coming out of the assorted results of polls commissioned for the Illinois governor’s race – Republican challenger Bruce Rauner probably does have more supporters at this moment than does Gov. Pat Quinn.

But does that mean I’m convinced this campaign cycle is effectively over? Or that Quinn ought to hang his head in shame and failure for the next three months?


My gut feeling says that the poll released Monday by the We Ask America organization (whose results often tend to lean toward GOP candidates, no matter who commissions the studies) is considerably off, and that anybody who’s taking its results seriously is going to be disappointed.

You know which poll I’m talking about – the one that had Rauner leading Quinn by a 14-point margin. As in 47 percent for Rauner and 33 percent for Quinn. A sitting governor in a state whose population leans toward his party only gets 33 percent voter support?!?

That’s so laughable a concept that it ought to discredit the results right away.

SO WHEN I learned of a poll commissioned by the Illinois Education Association that gives Rauner only a 4 point lead (46 percent for Rauner to 42 percent for Quinn), somehow that seemed more realistic.

Now I’ll be the first to concede that the teachers’ union that represents many suburban school districts has already thrown its endorsement lot in with Quinn. So they have a stake in making him look as strong as possible.

Just as the people who are all too eager to want to believe a 14-point lead are ones who have a stake in making Quinn look ineffectual. Polling data is the ultimate evidence that numbers can be used to tell just about any story imaginable.

Numbers can tell stinkin’ lies, if used in certain ways.

PERSONALLY, I’M ALWAYS most interested in checking out the “undecided” category when it comes to electoral polls. How many people can’t make up their mind about who they want.

It just seems that this election cycle is one where the undecided factor is higher than usual. Although we have just over 90 days to go prior to Election Day. People are going to change their mind.

Which makes these numbers all so uncertain and unreliable.

It also fits in with the anecdotal evidence I have seen in talking with people who are capable of voting on Nov. 4 (or earlier if they use one of the Early Voting Centers to cast a ballot).

I HONESTLY BELIEVE that Rauner already has every single supporter he’s going to get on Election Day. Anybody who hasn’t already decided they’re voting for him isn’t going to do so, and nothing is going to change their minds.

And yet even in that 14-point lead poll, Rauner has 47 percent voter support. Which isn’t enough to win – unless you believe that any of the fringe candidates running for governor will actually catch on amongst the electorate and come close to taking more than 1 percent of the vote.

Those undecideds, if they get off their duffs and cast votes, may well wind up going for Quinn. Unless they decide that they could care less about either candidate, and they wind up voting for nobody.

Which is a real possibility, and is the basis of the Rauner campaign strategy to discourage votes amongst certain people. Quinn has to motivate them to think that they should care about his campaign, even though many of these people are psyching themselves up for the February 2015 mayoral election (and potential April 2015 runoff) to try to get Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, or anybody else, to beat Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

THIS IS WHY I remain convinced this is Quinn’s election to lose, even though long-time political observer Larry Sabato this week shifted his analysis saying Illinois has gone from being a “toss-up” to “leans Republican” when it comes to governor.

If Quinn can get his supporters to care enough to get out to the polls and vote as he did in 2010 against Republican William Brady then he’s going to give us evidence to the old adage that, “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.”

And if he can’t, then his campaign has no one else to blame for their failure than themselves.


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