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Thursday, June 23, 2005 12:46 am

Cold Rod

Yet another statewide survey shows big trouble for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Glengariff Group’s poll of 600 registered Illinois voters found Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka leading Blagojevich 33 percent to 31 percent. The poll was taken June 2-4, after the legislative session ended and the governor had received his first positive media coverage in months. Of the people who were questioned, 38 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 29 percent said that they were Republicans, and 27 percent said that they were independents.

The Glengariff Group is based in Chicago but has done a lot of work in Michigan. The political questions were added to a statewide survey for a client, “more for my own curiosity than anything,” says pollster Richard Czuba. He stresses that the poll was not commissioned by any campaign.

The poll also surveyed likely Democratic primary voters and discovered that Attorney General Lisa Madigan is tied with Blagojevich 31-31, with 21 percent undecided. This is the first time that a pollster has released details of a Democratic primary head-to-head, but the margin of error is so high — 6.5 percent — that the results are not exactly solid. Madigan is not expected to run, despite all of the rumors to the contrary. She just had a baby and is young enough that she can wait for a relatively clear shot at the Democratic primary.

The survey of Republican primary voters had an even higher margin of error — 7.4 percent — but it showed Topinka leading the field with 18 percent. Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis was in second place at 15 percent, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood was at 9 percent, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger was at 3 percent, and Ron Gidwitz was trailing the pack with 1 percent.

The pollster didn’t pit any other GOP candidate against Blagojevich, which has the Topinka campaign a bit upset. They strongly believe that crossover Democratic voters and Democrat-leaning independents are the key to winning the general election and maintain that the other GOP candidates wouldn’t have fared as well head to head with Blagojevich.

A spokesman for Rauschenberger had a different take.

“The polls right now are almost strictly a reflection of name ID, something that tends to even out over the life of a campaign, at least among principal contenders,” wrote Dan Proft, a Rauschenberger advisor, in an e-mail.

Proft contends that a score of just 18 percent for Topinka, “a 30-year GOP office holder with 75 percent hard name ID,” leaving her in a “statistical dead heat” with Oberweis, “a guy who has made a name for himself by stepping all over himself in two statewide runs,” is “not particularly compelling.”

Proft also claimed that Topinka’s strong head-to-head results against Blagojevich are merely a function of the governor’s own lousy numbers.

Proft makes some good points, but Rauschenberger just ran a statewide race for U.S. Senate last year, coming in third in the Republican primary.

Despite all that effort, a score of just 3 percent in the governor’s primary race is far from “compelling.”

But let’s take Proft’s side for a moment and look at the governor’s numbers by themselves, ignoring the Topinka results.

The governor scored just 51 percent in Chicago — a Democratic bastion. He should be at 75 percent, at least. Suburban Cook County, which has trended more and more Democratic for years, also had bad news. The governor was winning just 37 percent there.

Just 20 percent supported Blagojevich in the suburban “collar counties,” which is a pitiful result. Only 27 percent backed him in southern Illinois. And a paltry 17 percent of central-Illinois residents said that they’d vote for the governor.

The governor’s campaign claims that he has raised at least $14 million for his re-election campaign. He’ll need a lot more to turn these numbers around.

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