Monday, December 14, 2009

It's still early in campaign season

A lot of people don’t have a clue who they’re going to vote for when it comes to the Feb. 2 primary elections.

At least that’s what I got out of the trio of polls used by the Chicago Tribune in recent days to write exclusive stories about how the campaign season is going thus far.

THEY’RE EXCLUSIVE IN that the newspaper got them first, and everybody else who writes stories based off the results is forced to acknowledge the fact that it’s the Tribune they’re stealing from. That’s the real purpose of the stories – enhance the impression that the Tribune reigns supreme over other Chicago newsgathering organizations by being able to afford to sponsor their own polls.

We got to see the headlines predicting Quinn/Ryan and Giannoulias/Kirk campaigns for Illinois governor and U.S. senator from Illinois, and the fact that Dorothy Brown gets to call herself the front-runner in the campaign for president of the Cook County Board.

The trick to consider about polls is that they indicate what the results might be, if the election were held today. But instead of mid-December, the elections in Illinois will be in early February, and it is very likely that many people won’t seriously think about the political process until next month.

In short, they will make up their minds at the last possible minute. So nobody ought to be thinking of themselves as having the election locked up (not even Quinn, whom the Tribune poll indicates has a huge lead over leading opponent Dan Hynes).

SERIOUSLY, THE TRUE leaders as indicated by the Tribune polls were Brown for county board president, Quinn for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor, and undecided for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and both party nominations for the U.S. Senate seat that Roland Burris finally had to concede he had little chance of winning election to in 2010.

The number of people surveyed who don’t know whom to vote for was higher than the support for Jim Ryan, Alexi Giannoulias or Mark Kirk.

In fact, many political observers are convinced that the only reason Ryan has more support in the poll than any of the other Republican possibilities for governor is because none of the other candidates is that well-known.

The theory is that once people get to know who the other candidates are, their support will shoot up and one of them is bound to surpass the one-time Illinois attorney general who is trying for a second time to become Illinois governor.

AS FOR GIANNOULIAS and Kirk, it could be that their opponents have a chance to overcome them – since there are elements of each one’s political party that would rather have nothing to do with them,.

It’s really bad for Kirk, who’d like to think he’s the inevitable GOP nominee for a U.S. Senate seat. But nearly half (46 percent, to be exact) of Republicans are undecided about who they’d like to have – other than that they don’t want a Democrat.

In short, they know they want the Senate seat once held by Barack Obama (because of the snickering they will be able to do in political circles by achieving such an electoral victory), but they don’t know who they want.

Giannoulias, whom some Democrats fear has political skeletons in his family’s financial history that could become negative issues, is not as bad off. But 31 percent favoring him and 35 percent being unsure who they want is a sad state of affairs in and of itself.

IN SHORT, I don’t know how these primary campaigns are going to turn out. Anybody who says they do know is either dishonest or dumb – if not both!

Too many people are going to wait after the winter holidays before they give much thought to elections. That is when the undecideds will drop to a more typical level – there are always a certain number of people who say they’re undecided because they are indecisve.

They just can’t make up their minds about anything.

But at this point, having that many undecideds indicates a series of election cycles that can go in any direction.

WHICH MEANS THAT the Tribune polls really didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, except for the fact that Tribune Company remains an organization with more muscle than any other news outfit in this town.

Who else is likely to pay for the multiple rounds of polls they are likely to conduct in coming weeks that the Tribune will give us?


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