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Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 01:49 am

Hoffman in the hunt; Dillard gets a bounce

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State Sen. Kirk Dillard


Underdog Democratic U.S. Senate candidate David Hoffman has a new poll which purports to show that he’s in the hunt, but the camp of Democratic primary rival Alexi Giannoulias says there’s no way the poll is accurate.

Hoffman’s survey of 505 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted Oct. 2-4 by Hart Research Associates. The initial head-to-head has state Treasurer Giannoulias leading with 18 percent, followed by Urban League President Cheryle Jackson at 7 percent and 5 percent for former Chicago Inspector General Hoffman.

The Giannoulias campaign, however, points to a poll they took July 28 through Aug. 2 which had their guy at 45 percent, with 17 percent for Chris Kennedy and 13 percent for Jackson. No way, they say, could they be as low as Hoffman’s poll shows.

The Hoffman pollster read “positive” statements about all three candidates, and afterwards another head-to-head was conducted. Hoffman jumped into the lead with 36 percent to 27 percent for Giannoulias and 11 percent for Jackson. Read those positive “pushes,” however, and you’ll see that Hoffman’s positive statements paint the man as almost a super-hero. “He earned a reputation for being fiercely independent and putting accountability ahead of politics, by exposing insider deals and taxpayer rip-offs, including the Chicago parking meter scandal,” is just one.

Afterwards, the Hoffman pollster posed negative questions. While not all were divulged, some were, including an undefined “criticism involving loans to Tony Rezko by the Broadway Bank.” The Giannoulias family owns Broadway. Questions were also asked about Hoffman, including one about how he was once “a law clerk for conservative judges, including former chief justice William Rehnquist, who opposed a woman’s right to choose.”

After all the questions, both positive and negative, Hoffman’s poll claims he leads with 43 percent to 18 for Jackson and just 16 for Giannoulias.

This isn’t really a surprise. Giannoulias’ negatives obviously make him quite vulnerable or the White House wouldn’t have spent so much time and energy trying to recruit somebody else to run last summer.

The question is whether Hoffman will have enough money to make his case and drive his points home, both positive for himself and negative against Giannoulias, before the Feb. 2 primary. Right now, he’s reported raising about $900K, more than half of that from his own pocket.

Candidates will need to spend tons of money in January because so many others will be running ads. The Democrats and Republicans have the two big primaries — governor and U.S. Senate. Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk’s open 10th Congressional seat will probably see some Chicago TV spending by both parties. The Cook County Board President’s race could see more than a few bucks spent.

The bottom line is that without big bucks, even a compelling message might easily be lost in the TV clutter. That’s a big reason why Comptroller Dan Hynes started running ads so early against Gov. Pat Quinn.

Money is still a serious “if” with Hoffman. He raised a decent amount of cash right out of the gate, but it’s uncertain whether he can sustain it. Hoffman’s quite the little fighter, though, so we’ll see how it plays out.

Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard has a new poll which may show a major bounce from Jim Edgar’s endorsement in his race for governor. 

The former GOP governor announced his Dillard endorsement Monday, Oct. 12, and Dillard’s campaign followed up almost immediately with 300,000 “robocalls” to Republican primary voters.  The calls featured Edgar asking voters to support Dillard. 

The new automated poll, taken Wednesday, Oct. 14, shows Sen. Dillard with 23.5 percent of the vote.  His closest competitor is former attorney general Jim Ryan, with 10.5 percent.  Sen. Bill Brady is third at 8.5 percent.  Andy McKenna, who will likely have the most money to spend on this race (the word is over $3.5 million) and who just hired a new media consultant, scored just 2.56 percent.  Almost 45 percent remain undecided, however, so this is still anybody’s game.

A poll conducted last week for another statewide Republican campaign showed a similarly dramatic “Edgar bounce” for Dillard. Those numbers have not been officially released, but they show almost the same result for Dillard, providing more evidence that the Edgar impact could be real. 

The Dillard poll was taken by We Ask America of 3,193 likely Republican voters.  It had a margin of error of /- 1.73 percent.

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