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Miller: Dems’ stumbling in downstate district gives GOP a shot

Updated: August 17, 2012 6:52AM



A new poll taken last week has downstate Republican congressional candidate Jason Plummer leading his latest Democratic challenger by 11 points in a district that was designed to re-elect U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello.

The poll, taken July 9 by We Ask America, found Plummer ahead of Democrat Bill Enyart 45 percent to 34 percent. The automated poll of 1,510 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Plummer is significantly below 50 percent and 23 percent of voters are undecided, so he doesn’t have this one in the bag yet. Enyart was appointed to the ballot late last month, so he has barely had any time to make an impression on the 12th Congressional District’s voters.

The 12th District was drawn on the new congressional map to ensure the re-election of longtime incumbent Jerry Costello. When he dropped out of the race, he helped engineer the appointment of Brad Harriman as the Democratic candidate.

But Harriman was an incredibly weak candidate and couldn’t put a decent campaign together, so the district went up for grabs. Harriman had to go, and he dropped out last month, citing an unnamed medical condition.

Enter Enyart, whose newness is hurting him, for now, with fellow Democrats. While Plummer is backed by 79 percent of Republicans, Enyart is supported by just 62 percent of Democrats. More than 29 percent of Democrats are undecided, so as they “come home” Enyart should tighten this race up some more.

Just 43.5 percent of black voters are supporting Enyart right now, according to the poll, and that will definitely increase. And a full 28 percent of independents are undecided, compared with 25 percent who support Enyart and 46 percent who back Plummer. Again, we will probably see some of those folks move toward Enyart as he becomes better known.

Enyart retired as the Illinois National Guard’s top general shortly before he was appointed to the ballot. Generals, like mayors and sheriffs, don’t always make the best candidates because they are accustomed to barking orders, not taking them. He has never run for any office and also has no combat experience to highlight during his campaign.

And Enyart is a Metro East guy, which may not play well in the more “southern” portions of the district. His campaign points out that he led the National Guard’s efforts during the 2011 flood, which hurt several southern counties, and that he has family in the southern section (Sparta) and opened his first law office in Monroe County.

But he will be perceived as St. Clair County’s guy, which, in fact, he is. He also was appointed to the National Guard post by Rod Blagojevich, and his law firm twice contributed small sums to Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

Perhaps the best news for Democrats in this district is that President Barack Obama appears to be doing a little better than expected. Just under 46 percent of voters approve of Obama’s job performance, while 52 percent disapprove. Yes, he’s upside down, but Obama has not been doing well outside Cook County and especially badly in southern Illinois. A 46 percent approval rating is better than some had figured.

The president undoubtedly will be a drag on Democrats up and down the ticket in many areas of the state if he doesn’t improve his standing soon. Some Democratic legislative incumbents have been targeted for defeat in the 12th District, including state Sen. Bill Haine and state Reps. Dan Beiser and Jerry Costello II. They’ll need a stronger performance from Obama and a much better Enyart effort to help them hold on to their seats.

According to the poll, almost 54 percent of the district’s likely voters oppose “Obamacare,” the national health care reform law. Asked whether they “generally support the federal government’s increase role in this nation’s health insurance system, sometimes known as ‘Obamacare,’ ” just 38 percent of likely voters supported the law and about 8 percent said they are undecided. Only 70 percent of Democrats support the law, compared with 87 percent of Republicans who oppose it. That’s obviously not great news for Democratic candidates.

Rich Miller also publishes
Capitol Fax, a daily political
newsletter, and CapitolFax.com



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