Illinois Governor Race: ‘Land Of Lincoln’ Looking Tough To Keep Under Dem Control

illinois governor race

The Illinois Governor race is the second article in what will be a succession offering expanded analysis for the PPD 2014 Governor Map Predictions. A deeply unpopular incumbent Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, will face Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, and it appears the Land of Lincoln will be far more competitive than it otherwise should be.

Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, had formed an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial run, but withdrew. Any situation where an incumbent governor is forced to fend off challenges against two big, major players from his own party has the potential to cause the party trouble. Lisa Madigan, who had the potential to lock this up for the Democrats, also decided against a run. President Obama’s home state will not exactly be prime Democrat territory as far as the gubernatorial race goes.

Democrat Tio Hardiman, a small name challenger and former director of CeaseFire, along with his running mate for lieutenant governor, Brunell Donald, filed a challenge to Quinn’s nominating petitions. The ticket was claiming the incumbent governor doesn’t have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot. To qualify for the ballot in Illinois, state law requires a gubernatorial candidate collect 5,000 signatures from registered voters.

It was clear early on that Democrats had good reason to doubt Pat Quinn could hold the Governor Mansion. An April 2013 poll from Crain’s/Ipsos showed Gov. Pat Quinn with an almost unheard of 18 percent approval rating. It appears a divisive Republican primary may be the only potential variable working for Quinn at this point.

As far as our primary prediction, we rated the Republican primary for Illinois governor “Likely Rauner” on our 2014 Governor Map Predictions, which you can view here. However, the primary election, which many thought would bruise Bruce Rauner, apparently hurt Quinn more.

Moving back to the general election, the Rauner ad buy was devastating to Gov. Pat Quinn, though his abysmal 18 percent approval rating has yet to be duplicated in recent polling. In a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll taken January 30th, Bruce Rauner, who many Democrats believed could be depicted as a corporatist, lead the governor 47-39. But all of the potential challengers led Gov. Quinn, as well.

A solid 59 percent of likely voters disapprove of Gov. Quinn’s job performance, while 29 percent approve of his job performance. Statewide, Quinn is trailing in every region save for the city of Chicago, where he leads by roughly 60-25 percent. However, his poor performance in the Cook County suburbs, if true, will cost him the election. In a region that has been trending Democrat over the past few cycles, the potential Republican candidates lead by an average of 6 points.

In the collar counties, where 62 percent disapprove of the governor, the Republican lead is literally double the lead in Cook County, averaging 12 points for the potential candidates over Quinn. In Downstate Illinois, where 73 percent disapprove of Quinn’s job performance, the lead is insurmountable if it holds, with all of the Republican candidates leading Quinn by a 30-point margin.

With a 56.76 percent approval rating among Democrats, which is translating into just 49 percent of his own party who feels he deserves to be reelected, Quinn is in a similar position as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.

It wouldn’t be impossible for the numbers to move or tighten, but the strategy coming from the Quinn camp makes this look even more bleak for the Democrats come 2014.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently told Lynne Sweet of Illinois’ preeminent political blog, Capitol Fax, that he “sees no need at this stage to put together a data-digital-social media-driven operation that is the hallmark of many campaigns because, he told me, he has an army of foot soldiers.”

“There is no substitute for folks who go door to door. We did our petition drive in 10 days, got 55,000 names to activate that,” Quinn said. In fact, as of December 11, Quinn still did not even hire a campaign manager. As far as his trouble with Hardiman and his challenge to Quinn being on the ballot, the governor’s people seem not at all concerned. “We are confident in the number and quality of the governor’s nomination petitions,” campaign spokeswoman Leslie Wertheimer said.

Republicans very well have a shot at winning this race, and though we could see this play out the same as other states such as Florida and Pennsylvania, we can say with a degree of certainty at the moment that Gov. Quinn is leaning toward losing the Illinois Governor race. Rarely does a governor with such an abysmal job approval and no campaign organization win reelection, and we aren’t the only ones to think so.

The Democratic Party is being split in Illinois, which is something the media doesn’t seem to have the will to cover. The fissure between the pro-union Democrats and the remaining working class blue-collar Democrats who are unaffiliated with the unions is causing Quinn to lose support among a traditional bloc of Democratic voters.

The fissure was further exposed, if not ripped open, when former Kennedy administration official and Democratic activist Newton Minow, as well as a dozen other Illinois Democrats, endorsed Bruce Rauner.

Despite the potential for controvery, this race is now rated “Leans Republican” on our 2014 Governor Map Predictions.

View Polling Below Or View Our 2014 Governor Map Predictions

Poll Date Sample Rauner (R) Quinn (D) Spread
PPD Average 1/30 – 03/22 45 37 Rauner +8
Gravis/Human Events 03/21 – 03/22 806 RV 43 35 Rauner +8
WeAskAmerica 01/30 – 01/30 1354 LV 47 39 Rauner +8
PPP (D) 11/22 – 11/25 557 RV 38 41 Quinn +3