The Campaign Spot

If Voters in Illinois Sour on You, Mr. President . . .

The death of Qaddafi, and some pop-culture silliness about television shows fearing to echo or managing to predict actual events, feature in the final Morning Jolt of the week. And then there’s this intriguing polling result:

Illinois? Really?

The headline is a predictable “Poll: Obama tops GOP Rivals in Illinois,” but look beyond that and the implications are pretty stunning:

Obama did best against Perry, with 50.8 percent of respondents reelecting the president and 32.8 percent choosing the Texas governor.

Obama did the worst again Romney, with 46.1 percent to 38.5. Against Cain, the former chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza, the percentage was 46.3 percent for Obama against 34 percent for Cain.

Finally against Ron Paul, Obama had a showing of 49.3 percent against 30.3 percent.

The poll is the fourth annual state survey taken by the institute. It surveyed by phone 1,000 registered Illinois voters from Oct. 11 through Oct. 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

“You could look at this as being uncomfortably close for the president in his home state,” institute director David Yepsen said. “On the other hand you could say Obama is holding up fairly well in Illinois, given the difficult year he has had politically and the continued poor performance of the economy.”

Get beyond the “meh” numbers for the Republicans. Note that other than his quasi-home state of Hawaii and perhaps some intensely Democratic state, like Vermont or Maryland, this should be one of Obama’s strongest states. He won it with 61.8 percent in 2008.

Also note, of course, this is registered voters, not likely voters, so if it holds to traditional patterns, it’s probably giving Democrats a slight edge they wouldn’t have among actual votes. (Insert joke about Illinois’s dead casting votes here.) Then we get to this: “The poll shows 51.8 percent of respondents think Obama is doing a good job, while 46.4 percent disapprove.”

In other words, even in the state most inclined to give Obama every benefit of the doubt, they’re souring on him.

“When an incumbent can’t get to 50% against challengers in the other party’s primary, that’s a big red flag in any state,” writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. “Undecideds usually break hard against the incumbent, and being below 50% means that the possibility of a loss becomes much greater, especially if turnout shifts in favor of the opponents. When that occurs in an incumbent President’s home state — especially one so solidly Democratic as Illinois — it’s practically a cue for a dirge. Pat Quinn’s 35% job approval rating as Governor isn’t exactly helpful either, as it will depress enthusiasm and grassroots efforts to turn out the vote. Obama may have to avoid Quinn in order to campaign effectively, and that won’t be easy to do. . . . Does this mean Republicans could end up winning Illinois in a general election? I wouldn’t bet money on that outcome, but that’s not the real issue here. What this means is that Obama will have to bet money on Illinois, and a lot of it, to keep the GOP from taking his home state in November 2012. That’s money that Obama won’t be spending elsewhere, like Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, and other states that he needs to keep in order to win re-election.”

To be honest, I’m not even sure Obama will need to spend much money to keep Illinois, and judging by the fundraising so far, Obama isn’t likely to lose in 2012 because of a lack of funds. What I do find significant about this is that if Obama’s numbers look mediocre here, they’re much worse in much less friendly territory, and thus, barring some dramatic change in the next 13 months, he’s doomed. Fairly early in the evening in 2004, appearing on and calling in to ABC, I was confidently projecting a George W. Bush win, based on how John Kerry was dramatically underperforming Gore in non-swing states like Connecticut and New Jersey. If Kerry was under-performing Gore in heavily Democratic states, it was hard to believe he would somehow outperform Gore’s threshold in tougher places like Florida.

But . . . still a lot of race to run.

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