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Miller: New polls show state GOP has tough road ahead

Updated: June 14, 2013 6:14AM



Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady resigned last week just as a new statewide poll showed big trouble for his political party.

Brady, chairman since August 2009, had been under pressure to resign ever since the disastrous 2012 elections. The pressure increased publicly after Brady announced his support for a gay marriage bill. Multiple attempts to oust Brady were unsuccessful, but the opposition was building.

The way forward is unclear, to say the least. Some party leaders have a list of more than 25 people to consider. This could easily turn out to be a total mess.

And this all comes at a particularly bad time for the state GOP. A May 6 Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll found that 52 percent of likely Illinois voters have a negative view of the party, 25 percent have a positive view and 24 percent are neutral.

According to the poll of 1,036 likely voters, 54 percent of women have a negative view of the GOP (24 percent positive), and 48 percent of men have a negative view (26 percent positive). The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

And a mere 59 percent of self-identified Republicans have a positive view of the state party, while 16 percent have a negative view and 25 percent are neutral — a combined 41 percent that’s not positive. Not good.

Perhaps more important, only 18 percent of independents have a positive view of the Illinois Republican Party, while 50 percent view it negatively.

So, it’s somewhat of a miracle that state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka still is polling as well as she is. According to the survey, Topinka leads Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon 45 percent to 38 percent.

Topinka leads among independents by 12 points. Topinka and Simon are essentially tied among women, but Topinka has a 53 to 34 lead among men.

Simon likely will run for attorney general if Lisa Madigan goes for governor, but she has said she’s eyeing the comptroller office as well.

Simon is the highest-profile Democrat to consider a bid against Topinka, so this may be a high water mark for the Democrats. Topinka won her last race by 13 percentage points in a very good year for the GOP.

Topinka’s lead is similar to Lisa Madigan’s lead for governor over state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-18th) in a somewhat recent Public Policy Polling survey. So, she’s doing quite well considering the serious headwinds.

But the news isn’t all that great for Democrats, either.

A Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,057 likely Illinois voters taken May 8 showed that 42 percent have a negative view of the Democratic Party and 36 percent are positive. That’s not as bad as the GOP numbers, but it is “certainly an indictment of the political landscape,” as my pollster told me. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.

Independents tend to lean more conservative because many are former Republicans who no longer want to be identified with the party. So the GOP has to do well with them to win. There are far more Democrats in this state than Republicans, but they aren’t a majority and must still be competitive with independent voters.

The May 8 poll shows that Democrats aren’t doing so well with independents now. A strong majority of independents, 56 percent, viewed the party negatively, which is six points worse than the Republicans fared. Eighteen percent (same as the GOP) viewed Democrats positively.

Just one region, Chicago, finds a majority of those responding with a positive view of the Democratic Party, with 56 percent positive and 23 percent negative. In suburban Cook County, 39 percent are pleased with the party to 29 percent who are not, while a 52-33 majority of collar county voters and a 56-24 majority of downstaters have a negative view of the Democrats.

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



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