Saturday, January 10, 2015

Does Rahm have half? Can he keep it?

“The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.” Or so goes the old political cliché.

So what should we make of the fact that a new poll shows Mayor Rahm Emanuel with just enough support to win the mayoral election outright on Feb. 24 and not have to rely on an April 7 runoff to keep his current political post?

THE POLL BY Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, published this week by Crain’s Chicago Business, says exactly half of the people questioned would vote for Emanuel, rather than one of his four opponents who remain now that the Chicago Board of Elections has finalized the ballot and five other candidates are now gone.

It seems that the past month of campaigning by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has put him ahead of the other candidates with 22 percent support and 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti taking 13 percent (unlike past polls that showed the two of them at about 16 percent support each).

As for the two African-American candidates, Dr. Willie Wilson (the man who turned McDonalds franchises into a personal fortune) has about 7 percent and William “Dock” Walls has 2 percent.

But the latter figures are the ones most likely to change, since it was earlier this week that Wilson put some of his own money into his campaign fund and reportedly will start flooding the radio airwaves with his ads.

HIS CAMPAIGN PLANS to focus on the roughly one-third of Chicago that is African-American, and he hopes to build up a strong base amongst the black population that is appalled and disappointed by Emanuel’s first four years as mayor.

That “7 percent” is bound to increase. Much of that may come from the number of voters who are still undecided. But if he can tap into the black people who were willing to go for Rahm because Fioretti and Garcia are just too alien for them to support, then we could still have that run-off election that seems to be the dream of everybody who wants to Dump Emanuel.

Although I wonder if it does get reduced to two candidates in a run-off, will all the backers of the three “losers” find the Emanuel alternative so incapable of supporting that they’ll just decide to stay home on April 7?

Does Emanuel wind up winning regardless?

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, because election cycles like these that depend on negative emotion depend also on the whim of the public. How many will care enough to take the time to vote come Election Day?

As one who personally finds the concept of Garcia as mayor to be intriguing, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not sure he can rise above his current level of support. Maybe 25 percent tops – one quarter of Chicago isn’t enough to win. Particularly if his campaign fails to catch on amongst the city’s Latino population.

So what’s going to happen on Election Day (or days, if we really have to have two mayoral elections this time around)?

It was earlier this week that another poll showed Emanuel with merely 44 percent – not enough to avoid the dreaded run-off (I say dreaded because anything that forces us to endure another month-and-a-half of campaign activity is not a plus).

THIS NEW POLL is interesting because it shows Emanuel with the potential to get enough support come February because he’ll have the kind of cash to build up a public image of himself as an education reformer that will be forgotten come early May when either Emanuel or a new mayor is sworn into office.

But we still have a month-and-a-half to go before that first Election Day date, and three months until the second.

The only thing I’m willing to predict is that by that time, most people will be eagerly awaiting the coming of a new baseball season (spring training for the White Sox begins Feb. 24 Election Day and Opening Day is the day before April 7 Election Day) – just because it means the political people will finally have to shut up with their campaign trash talk for another season.


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