Written by Rich Miller
Sunday, 08 May 2016 06:03
With yet another poll showing plunging Downstate support for Governor Bruce Rauner in a Republican district and the intense Republican freakout over Donald Trump’s impending presidential nomination and its impact on independent suburban women, there appears to be a growing feeling among Democrats, particularly in the Illinois Senate, that they need to get out of the way to let the other party crash and burn.
The almost year-long state-government impasse is most definitely having an impact on Rauner’s poll numbers. Bernie Schoenburg reported in the State Journal-Register last week that a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll of appointed Republican state Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez’s Springfield-area district had Rauner upside down, with 37 percent approving of the way the governor is doing his job and 54 percent disapproving. Rauner won that district 58-37 in 2014, according to Illinois Election Data’s numbers. Basically Rauner’s numbers have flipped almost entirely.
Another PPP poll of GOP state Representative Terri Bryant’s southern-Illinois district near Carbondale was even worse for the governor. Rauner won Bryant’s district 60-33, but 57 percent of voters in that district disapprove of Rauner’s job performance, while only 33 percent approve. Both polls were taken April 14 throug 17 and had margins of error of a bit over 4 percent.
A PPP poll taken last August in Bryant’s district had the governor’s job approval rating at 40 percent and his disapproval rating at 51. That’s a net loss of 13 points in eight months. And, again, this is a Republican district, albeit one that has plenty of government workers.
Bryant is also experiencing a free fall, if the pollster’s numbers are correct. Last August, PPP had her at a 50-percent job-approval rating and a 27-percent disapproval rating. Now she’s at 42 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval. That’s a 24-point swing.
Meanwhile, Gallup’s daily March tracking polls showed 70 percent of women nationally had an unfavorable view of the presumptive nominee Trump. That number is surely higher in the Democrat-leaning Illinois, where independent suburban women have been the deciding factor in just about every major statewide race since 1990.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Rauner recently let it be known that he won’t endorse Trump and won’t attend the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer, and why, as I write this, appointed Comptroller Leslie Munger is expected to make the same decisions because she’s up for special election this fall.
And you also don’t have to be Einstein to realize that the one-two combo of Rauner and Trump could spell big trouble for down-ballot Republicans.
On the other hand, Rauner’s team says it has polling that shows, by a two-to-one margin, that voters blame House Speaker Michael Madigan more than the governor for the ongoing impasse. To voters, Madigan is “the all-knowing puppet master,” explained one Rauner official last week. Madigan’s been around so long and is believed to have so much control over Illinois politics and government that he’s seen by voters as “the key to getting something done.”
So as long as this impasse is going on, Rauner’s legislative allies have a handy pivot they can use, paid for with Rauner’s cash. Whenever Democratic legislators or candidates demand their Republican opponents answer for the latest Trump outrage or their support for and/or from the unpopular Rauner, the Republicans can turn it back on the Democrats by demanding they justify their support for and/or from the obstructive Speaker Madigan (or Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Madigan, in the case of Senate candidates).
But even if yet another “Fire Madigan” effort by Republicans isn’t as effective as they believe it will be (the first two tries failed badly), many Democrats will freely admit right now that voters are overwhelmingly blaming incumbents rather than a single political party or person for the impasse – and there are a whole lot more Democratic incumbents than Republicans in the General Assembly.
Once your opponent goes down in a campaign, you never take your boot off that person’s neck. So with Rauner and Republican legislators going down and Trump about to make a big splash, there’s naturally plenty of temptation among a certain type of Democrat to keep this impasse going.
But all those legislative Democrats may wind up doing if the impasse lasts through November is distract Illinois voters from the weirdness at the national and statewide levels.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and CapitolFax.com.