Democratic state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias has a new poll that shows he has an 11-point lead over his Republican opponent, state Senator Christine Radogno.
Giannoulias has struggled since shortly before the spring primary. Reporters started looking into his family's bank business, and came up with ties to some seriously shady mobsters. Things went downhill fast.
But all the bad publicity hasn't helped Radogno, a moderate, well-liked Republican legislator from the suburbs who had been considered by some to be the Republican with the best chance of winning a statewide race this November.
The poll had Giannoulias leading Radogno 46-35. The survey of 600 likely voters was taken July 10 through 16 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. It had a margin of error of 4 percent.
The result is very close to polls taken recently by SurveyUSA and Rasmussen. Both pollsters found that Governor Rod Blagojevich was leading Judy Baar Topinka 45-34.
The SurveyUSA poll's details showed Illinois' partisan breakdown to be 43 percent Democratic, 32 percent Republican, and 23 percent independent. So, in other words, candidates in both the treasurer's race and the governor's race seem to be holding right about at their expected party-support levels.
Those poll results also show just how difficult it is these days for an Illinois Republican to win statewide, particularly in down-ballot races where voters are far less-focused and far more uninformed. Democrats who can hold onto their base don't have very far to go to get to 50 percent plus one vote. For Republicans to win, they have to sway a whole lot of independent voters and also try to convince as many Democrats as possible to cross over. Since independents here tend to lean toward the Democrats, that job is even tougher.
Without strong name recognition, wooing all those voters takes a lot of money, and it's not certain how much cash Senator Radogno will be able to spend this fall. Her best hope is probably that those harshly negative media stories flare up once again on Giannoulias.
According to the internal numbers provided by Giannoulias' campaign, Giannoulias leads Radogno among independents 39-27. He has an 18-point lead among senior citizens (49-31) and is ahead with men 43-40 and women 49-32.
The pollster also divided the state into four sections: Chicago, suburbs, northwest Illinois, and southern Illinois. The suburbs includes suburban Cook County, and northwest Illinois comes as far south as Peoria and Bloomington. Everything below that is considered southern Illinois.
Giannoulias leads in Chicago 68-11, has a 45-37 lead in the suburbs and is tied in southern Illinois 41-41. Radogno has a 47-35 lead in northwest Illinois. Radogno's campaign declined to comment on the poll.
As I write this, neither candidate has filed their semiannual campaign finance reports yet, and it's unknown how much more of his own money Giannoulias is willing to spend on this race after dumping a big chunk of his personal fortune in the primary.
It's also unknown whether U.S. Senator Barack Obama will appear in any more TV ads for Giannoulias this fall. After Obama expressed some concerns about the way Giannoulias was handling all that negative press, the candidate hired some new staff. Since then, things have improved somewhat. Those Obama endorsement ads were indispensable to Giannoulias last spring, when he defeated the state Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, Paul Mangieri. He'll need them again if the press continues digging up dirt.
Another sticking point for Giannoulias is that he and House Speaker Michael Madigan have yet to patch up their differences from the spring campaign. In fact, they haven't even spoken to one another. Madigan, who is also the state party chairperson, strongly supported Paul Mangieri in the primary. These days, Madigan reportedly remains unconvinced that Giannoulias can ride out the mobster stories, and is still peeved that the 30-year-old political neophyte chose to run against his own party's slated candidate in March.
The Illinois State Fair is coming up soon, though, and both Madigan and Giannoulias will be there for Governor's Day. It should be fun to see how they handle it.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and (http://www.thecapitolfaxblog.com).