Miller: Illinois seems lock for Obama, but his numbers down
By Rich Miller www.thecapitolfaxblog.com September 9, 2012 4:22PM
Updated: October 11, 2012 6:14AM
On the eve of President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention last week, a statewide poll showed the native son was leading his Republican opponent by 17 percentage points in Illinois.
The poll of 1,382 likely Illinois voters was taken Sept, 5 by We Ask America. It had Obama at 54 percent to Mitt Romney’s 37 percent. Another 3.3 percent said they would vote for a third-party candidate and 6 percent were undecided.
That’s way below where Obama was four years ago, when he won Illinois with 62 percent of the vote.
If you look at the 17-point spread between the two candidates, it’s a blowout, although not as big as Obama’s gigantic 25-point victory in 2008.
If you look at where Obama’s numbers are now, you might consider that this race could tighten up quite a bit, at least compared with 2008. The spread is generally how polls are judged in the end, so if you’re a Republican, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up too much.
According to the poll, Obama leads among Illinois women 59 percent to 32 percent and even leads among men by a 48 to 43 margin. However, exit polling from 2008 showed that Obama won women by 29 points and men by 15 points, so he’s doing about the same with women but not as well with men.
The survey, which has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points, has Obama with a huge 80 percent to 11 percent lead in Chicago. Some top Republicans have been saying they believed Romney could hit close to 20 percent in the city, which would give them a shot at being competitive statewide.
That’s highly doubtful, according to this poll. However, four years ago Obama won Chicago with 85 percent, so he’s not yet doing quite as well as he did then.
Obama leads Romney in suburban Cook County by a substantial 60 to 30 margin. But again, that’s not as wide as 2008 when he won the region by 34 points. Suburban Cook is the location of a ton of hotly contested congressional and state legislative races, so the Democrats will need all the help they can get from the president.
Obama’s 30-point lead is a whole lot better than Gov. Pat Quinn’s 14-point margin two years ago, when the Democrats lost seats at the congressional and state levels.
Obama did quite well in Chicago’s collar counties four years ago, winning many by large margins. But he now leads by just 2 percentage points in the region, 47 to 45, with 6 percent undecided. Most of those counties contain all or part of many targeted races this time around, and Romney could be a significant factor there.
The president slightly trails Romney in the sprawling downstate region, getting 45 percent to Romney’s 46 percent, with 5 percent undecided, the poll says. There are a lot of hotly contested state legislative races downstate, and Republicans are confident that they can pick up some seats there.
Congressional and state legislative polling has shown that southern Illinois is where the president is struggling the most compared to four years ago. The We Ask America poll shows Obama with a slight lead of 47 percent to 46 percent in the 618 area code, which includes all of southern Illinois. That’s far below where he was four years ago.
The poll does show a few ways that Romney can increase his standing in Illinois and impact more races farther down on the ballot. Just 80 percent of self-described Republicans are supporting him versus 88 percent of Democrats who say they’re backing Obama. If and when those Republican voters finally “come home,” Romney’s numbers will go up.
Romney also has a slight, one-point lead among those who say they’re independent voters, who tend to lean Republican. He can probably expect more support from that group.
None of those avenues point to an actual Illinois win for Romney, who probably won’t be spending much cash in the state, particularly in the expensive Chicago media market.
Romney could run ads in the St. Louis area, which could help some Metro East Republicans. But Romney will need to target most of his campaign money for the all-important swing states, so most GOP candidates in Illinois won’t see much of an impact.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.