According to the latest Public Policy Poll, Republican Mark Kirk has pulled ahead of Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, 37-33, in the Illinois Senate Race. The last PPP survey, taken before the Senate primaries, had Giannoulias up 42-34 on Kirk.
The poll finds more than twice as many undecided Democrats as Republicans, leading PPP to suggest that Kirk’s lead could dissolve:
The main reason Giannoulias is behind is that he’s getting only 54% of the Democratic vote while Kirk is winning 77% of the Republican vote. It’s not that a lot of Democrats are planning to cross over and vote for Kirk, but 36% of them are undecided right now compared to just 16% of Republicans. That suggests Democratic voters don’t really know what to make of Giannoulias’ problems right now so they’re just taking a wait and see approach to the race.
It’s clear that the movement in Kirk’s direction over the last two months has nothing to do with him and everything to do with Giannoulias. A majority of voters in the state have no opinion of Kirk and his favorability spread of 24/23 is almost identical to the 27/22 he sported in late January. Giannoulias has seen his favorability drop from 31% to 21% and his unfavorability increase from 19% to 28% in that period of time.
Still, Giannoulias’s unpopularity, paired with Illinoisans’ increasing dissatisfaction with President Obama, give Kirk a real shot in November:
Also not helping Giannoulias is that President Obama is not nearly as popular in the state as he once was. 50% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 42% who disapprove. His 7% approval rating with home state Republicans is just as bad as it is with them nationally and his 81% standing with Democrat is about par for the course. He does continue to be more popular with independents in Illinois than he is in most states, with 51% of them approving of his job performance to 38% disapproving. Voters in the state express support for his health care plan by only a 46/43 margin.
The large mass of undecided Democrats are the critical bloc of voters in this race. If they come home to Giannoulias he’ll probably still win- this continues to be a very Democratic state. But if they- unhappy with both Giannoulias and Pat Quinn- decide to just stay home or even worse to vote Republican Kirk has a pretty decent shot at winning this. There may not be a state in the country where Democrats have a weaker top of the ticket at this point than Quinn and Giannoulas.