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Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007 05:59 am

Sinking ship

Poll suggests that governor’s base is deserting him

Untitled Document A recent statewide poll showed Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s job-approval rating was lower than George W. Bush’s. As if that isn’t astounding in and of itself — that a Democratic governor in a Democratic state would be polling worse than a wildly unpopular lame-duck Republican president — there was even more bad news for the governor. His political base appears to be deserting him. The poll had Blagojevich’s job-approval rating at 22 percent (5 percent rated his performance as excellent and 17 percent said it was good), and his disapproval rating was 78 percent (25 percent fair, 53 percent poor). By contrast, Bush’s job-approval rating in Illinois was 32 percent and his disapproval was 67 percent. The Rasmussen Reports poll of 500 likely Illinois voters was taken Aug. 22. Take a look at the crosstabs, though, and things are even worse than they appear. Blagojevich has courted African-American voters for years, and his efforts were paying off. He scored higher in most black Chicago wards and Cook County townships than Cook County Board President Todd Stroger did in November. According to official exit polling, Blagojevich won 80 percent of the African-American vote last fall. But the details of the Rasmussen poll have Blagojevich’s current approval among African-American voters at 41 percent and his disapproval at 57 percent. That’s a worse showing in that demographic than any poll I can find since the man was first elected. The governor is also doing worse with female voters than with male voters, according to Rasmussen. He’s even getting clobbered by his own Democratic voters. Just 29 percent of Democrats said that he is doing an excellent or good job; 71 percent rated him negatively. There was one consolation for the governor in that Rasmussen poll. Whereas 53 percent of all voters blamed the governor for the seemingly never-ending “budget stalemate” and just 19 percent blamed the legislature, only 11 percent of African-American voters blamed the governor for the current mess in Springfield, and a solid majority of 57 percent blamed the legislature. If those results are accurate, then you’d think that legislators with many black voters in their districts, particularly House members, might want to watch their backs. The House Democrats, led by Speaker Michael Madigan, have been engaged in a brutal political battle with Blagojevich for months. The battle became a full-scale war in August, when the governor slashed millions of dollars of programs from the state budget that had been inserted by House Democratics. The war has now progressed even further. It appears that Blagojevich and his ally Senate President Emil Jones are backing some candidates against incumbent African-American House members in the upcoming Democratic primary. The object appears to be to paint the incumbent Democrats as obstructionists to Blagojevich’s dream of health insurance for all.
Madigan has the best political operation at the Statehouse, and, when forced to choose between their own legislator and the governor, African-American voters will probably respond quite differently than they do when given a generic Blagojevich-vs.-General Assembly choice. In other words, this is a dangerous game for Blagojevich. His poll numbers are trending down, not up. He’ll have to not only funnel money to those challengers but also spend lots of cash on himself in an attempt to improve his ratings — and, considering his shoddy performance as governor to date, lifting those poll numbers may not be a very easy task.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and
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