You might have heard that another poll is showing former Governor Jim Edgar with a commanding lead over Governor Rod Blagojevich. The poll, taken late last month by the Judy Baar Topinka campaign, has Edgar leading Blagojevich 51 to 38. Edgar led everywhere except Chicago, where Blagojevich held a 63 to 27 advantage. Edgar's largest margin was Downstate, where he was creaming the incumbent 63 to 26, but Edgar also led in suburban Cook County (51 to 40) and the collar counties (54 to 34). The poll's margin of error was 3.5 percent. The margins of error for the regional results are much higher, of course.

The results are not much different than earlier polls have reported. What makes this particular poll significant is that the governor's people claimed in May, after a survey by the Chicago Tribune showed the governor's numbers were in the basement, that their poll numbers are "always" bad in the spring but bounce back in the fall. Well, we're almost to autumn, and the guv is still tanking. The general rule of thumb is if poll numbers stay down too long they'll tend to stick there. If these numbers are the same in October, then the voters have probably turned their minds off to him, and it will take a Herculean effort to get himself in a position to win, even with all of that cash in the bank.

The governor had slightly better news from a nonpartisan polling firm. SurveyUSA has been running monthly tracking polls in all 50 states for the past several months. In May, Governor Blagojevich's job approval-approval rating was 36 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. In June, it was 38-55, and it held at the same 38-55 in July.

The polling firm did not release its August tracker because of the Hurricane Katrina devastation. I called last week and was told that the August results will be released with the September numbers.

The firm was kind enough to give me a peek at the August numbers, but I'm not allowed to print them. Suffice it to say that the guv's job approval jumped somewhat, finally putting him above 40 percent. His disapproval ratings eased up a slight bit as well, but the governor's negatives are still above 50 percent. The firm polls 600 Illinois residents every month, with a margin of error of about 4.1 percent.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka's poll had her leading Blagojevich 44 to 40. The treasurer was held under 50 percent everywhere except Downstate, where she had a 54 to 28 lead, but she led Blagojevich in all regions except Chicago. Polls last spring had Topinka trailing Blagojevich, and doing relatively poorly in suburban Cook. But the new poll has her leading in that region. Topinka is widely considered the Republican front-runner if Jim Edgar opts out of the race.

The Topinka poll also asked whether likely voters trusted Governor Blagojevich with state finances. Fifty-one percent said "no," while just 41 percent said "yes."

Sixty-five percent of Downstaters said they didn't trust the guv with the state's checkbook, and 50 percent of Collar County voters said the same, as did 49 percent of suburban Cook County voters. (Forty-six percent said the trusted him in the Cook suburbs.) In only one region, the City of Chicago, did voters say they trusted the governor with the state's finances. Just over 60 percent of Chicagoans said "yes," while just 27 percent said "no."

The Illinois House and Senate Republicans are undoubtedly praying for another Edgar run. The Senate Republicans are losing an astonishing number of members to retirement or higher office next year and will have to defend several districts that weren't considered competitive while the current incumbents were still running.

Several House Republicans are considering running for those Senate vacancies, which will force House GOP Leader Tom Cross to raise far more money than he did during the last cycle.

The two leaders are also being told by some potential candidates, particularly those who would be put up against Democratic incumbents, that they prefer to wait and see what Edgar does before they decide. If Edgar runs, the Republicans will most likely be able to recruit more and better candidates. If he takes a pass, then their recruitment could hit a snag.

An Edgar candidacy would go a long way toward calming Republican nerves.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at (

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