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Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 06:50 am

Obama’s ahead, but not like 2008

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 here.

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 3.33 percent said they’d be voting for an unnamed 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 his gigantic 25-point victory back in 2008. If you look at where Obama’s numbers are right now (less than four points above 50 percent), you might consider that this race could have the potential to tighten up quite a bit, at least compared to 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 59-32, and even leads among men by a 48-43 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 tanking with men.

The survey, which had a margin of error of /- 2.8 percentage points, has Obama with a huge 80-11 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 back then.

President Obama leads Romney in suburban Cook County by a very substantial 60-30 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. But Obama’s 30-point lead is still a whole lot better than Gov. Pat Quinn’s 14-point win two years ago, when the Democrats lost seats at the congressional and state levels.

Obama did quite well in the collar counties four years ago, winning many by large margins. But he now leads by just 2 percentage points in the region, 47-45, with 6 percent undecided. Most of those counties contain all or part of numerous targeted general election races this time around, and Romney could be a significant factor there.

The president slightly trails Romney in the sprawling Downstate region, garnering just 45 percent to Romney’s 46 percent, with 5 percent undecided. Downstate is the locale of many hotly contested state legislative races, and it’s where the Republicans are confident that they can pick up some seats.

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 the president with a very slight 47-46 lead in the 618 area code, which includes all of southern Illinois. That’s far below where Obama was four years ago.

The poll does show a few ways that Romney can increase his standing here and impact more down-ballot races. 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 self-identified “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. And Romney probably won’t be spending much cash in this state, particularly in the very expensive Chicago media market, so down-ballot candidates won’t benefit. He could run ads in St. Louis, which could help some Metro East Republicans. But Romney will need to husband his money for the all-important swing states, so most candidates won’t see much of an impact.  

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