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Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 02:29 am

New polls look good for Jim Ryan

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan

According to two recent polls taken by Rasmussen Reports and one by the Chicago Tribune, Gov. Pat Quinn has a detectable and significant problem with women voters, but a new development in the campaign might help the governor overcome this gender gap.

Rasmussen recently matched Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Jim Ryan against Democrats Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes. Ryan outpolled Gov. Quinn by seven points, 46-39, but the former Republican attorney general trailed Hynes by two points, 40-42.

What’s going on? Well, the poll’s internals show a stark difference among women voters. Ryan leads Quinn 45-36 among women, but Hynes reverses the result and leads Ryan 42-32 with women. That’s a huge difference, but it seems to hold up when compared to other recent polling.

An earlier Rasmussen poll pitting Hynes and Quinn against the other Republican gubernatorial candidates showed Hynes doing far better with women than Quinn in every race.

The Chicago Tribune’s recent poll showed Quinn doing much worse with Democratic women than men on several issues. While 56 percent of Democratic men approved of Quinn’s handling of the state budget, just 38 percent of Democratic women did so. And while 45 percent of Democratic men approved of Quinn’s handling of ethics reforms, just 39 percent of women approved. Far more men, 40 percent, said Quinn was the better candidate to “eliminate” corruption in state government than women, 29 percent.

What appears to be happening is that many of Hynes’ supporters, particularly females, are so turned off by Quinn that they’re willing to at least say they’ll vote for the Republican Ryan rather than support the incumbent governor. Many of those voters, particularly harder-core Democrats, will eventually come “home.” For instance, Rasmussen’s poll has Quinn leading Jim Ryan 55-26 among black voters, while Hynes leads Ryan 81-9 among African-Americans. Some voters, however, may never come back. Rasmussen has Quinn virtually tied with Ryan (41-39) among moderate voters, while Hynes holds a strong 58-29 lead over Ryan among moderates.

Even so, Hynes hasn’t managed to translate this gender gap into a real electoral advantage. Quinn leads Hynes 43-25 among Democratic women in the Tribune poll. That lead among women is a far smaller margin than the 57-19 advantage Quinn holds over Hynes with men, but it’s still a big lead.

Taken together, what the Tribune and Rasmussen polls probably show is that there is at least a little bit of flux left in the Democratic primary race, but that time is not on Hynes’ side. Women tend to outnumber men in Democratic primary voting, so Hynes will have to press this issue hard in January. It’s still doubtful that Hynes can find the right message and, more importantly, has enough time to pull it off by Feb. 2.

Making life even more difficult for Hynes was that Gov. Quinn was endorsed by the pro-choice group Personal PAC last week. The political action committee has a truly gigantic contact list and a bulging bank account. If the organization totally activates for Quinn, the governor’s problem with Democratic women could dissipate.

Meanwhile, why is Jim Ryan doing so much better than the other Republicans against Quinn and Hynes? Rasmussen polls showed both Democrats way ahead of all Republican candidates except Ryan.

Ryan is simply much better known and liked, even though he entered the race late, has little money and is not campaigning near as hard as most of the others.

The Tribune poll showed that 55 percent of Republican voters knew enough about Ryan to express an opinion about him (and they like him a lot), while only 27 percent on average knew enough about his top three GOP rivals to rate them.

Rasmussen had Ryan taking 88 and 87 percent of the Republican vote against Quinn and Hynes, respectively, while the other three GOP candidates scored a 70 percent average of the Republican vote against the two Democrats. The same goes for independents, conservatives and almost every other age group and demographic.

The good news for Ryan is the primary is so early that his huge name advantage could be enough to win this thing. The Feb. 2 election will be upon us before many people are even paying attention. The bad news? Well, there is no bad news in these polls for Ryan as of now.

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

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