Commentary: Why? Because… Madigan!

By Rich Miller 
Capitol Fax 

The Democrats got a bit of good news and some serious bad news in a recent Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll. And that bad news is particularly negative for anyone who can be credibly connected to House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The poll of 1,231 registered Illinois voters found presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leading presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump by 12 points, 47-35. Another 7 percent said they were voting for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 12 percent were undecided. The poll was taken June 5 and 6, had a margin of error of +/-3 percent, and 39 percent of the responses came from mobile phone users.

John Kerry won this state by 12 points in 2004, the last time an Illinois resident wasn’t on the presidential ticket. So, Clinton’s numbers are already aligning with Kerry’s. And the poll was taken before Illinois’ U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and other Republicans withdrew their support from Trump.

Clinton is leading 67-17 in Chicago and 47-35 in suburban Cook County. Trump, however, is ahead 42-38 in the suburban collar counties and leads by 10 points, 45-35, among Downstate voters – the location of some potentially very hot state legislative battles, so it’s not all good news for the Dems. Then again, Democratic presidential candidates haven’t fared well in some Downstate regions in a long time, but Democratic legislators have mostly managed to hold onto their seats.

When looking at gender, location and voting history, the Libertarian candidate Johnson does his best with folks who have voted in the last three Republican primaries, scoring 11 percent – not good news for Trump at all.

But as Gov. Bruce Rauner’s people have been warning for months, the Democratic House Speaker is getting the blame for the yearlong governmental impasse by a huge margin.

“The Illinois General Assembly has once again adjourned its spring session without a budget agreement – an ongoing situation that some feel is caused by a clash between Governor Bruce Rauner and Speaker Mike Madigan,” poll respondents were told. They were then asked to assign blame between the two men.

The poll found that voters blame Madigan by a decisive 21-point margin, 55-34, with just 9 percent saying “both” and a mere 2 percent saying they were still undecided.

The polling company conducted a similar survey late last month for another client. Based on that earlier polling, the firm’s principal Gregg Durham said there “seems to be a widening gap putting the Speaker in the lead in the budget blame game.” Durham noted that while Rauner enjoys “relative solidarity among Republican voters, Speaker Madigan’s numbers are comparatively soft among Democrats.” For example, 28 percent of people who have taken Democratic ballots two out of the last three cycles say Madigan is chiefly to blame. Independents blamed Madigan 49-39.

Durham also said there were significantly more people who said they were undecided in the earlier poll. So, positions appear to be hardening.

Chicago is the only region that blames Gov. Rauner over Speaker Madigan for the impasse, 52-35. But there is only one contested race in the city, and Chicago GOP Rep. Michael McAuliffe’s district includes suburban Cook territory as well, where Madigan is blamed 54-36. And there are lots of expectedly competitive legislative races coming up in suburban Cook. About 7 percent blame both in Cook County and 3 percent are undecided.

Downstate voters predictably blame Madigan over Rauner 59-29, with 11 percent blaming both and an almost microscopic 1 percent saying they’re undecided. Just about everybody has an opinion on this one, and that opinion is not good for the Democrats.

Madigan does worst among collar county voters, where 64 percent blame the Speaker and just 27 percent blame Rauner, with 2 percent undecided and 8 percent blaming both men.

Just 29 percent of men blame Rauner, but a very strong 62 percent blame Madigan. Another 7 percent say both are to blame and 1 percent are undecided.

Fifty percent of female votes point their finger at Madigan as opposed to 38 percent who blame Rauner. 10 percent of women blame both and 3 percent are undecided.

The results reportedly confirm similar polling taken by the House Democrats and they definitely confirm polls taken by the Republicans. So, why continue down this path? The answer from multiple sources is that Madigan is convinced it’s up to him to stop Rauner in his tracks, even if that means taking some losses.

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