A pair of recent political polls confirm that Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Illinois chief executive Pat Quinn (D) are in tenuous re-election position, meaning losing is a distinct possibility for each. Both face major tests from several opponents and, according to Public Policy Polling (ME) and We Ask America (IL), the challengers either today have, or likely could soon possess, the upper hand.
PPP surveyed the Maine electorate (Aug. 23-25; 953 registered Maine voters) and determined that recently announced gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) is leading Gov. LePage 39-35 percent, with Independent attorney Eliot Cutler drawing 18 percent. Back in 2010, LePage defeated Cutler 38-36 percent, with Democrat Libby Mitchell only securing 19 percent of the vote. Since the governor has never topped 40 percent in any election or poll, the three-way configuration does give him hope of winning a second term. And, with a job approval index of 39:56 percent, being only four points behind in a survey conducted on the heels of his main opponent’s announcement tour certainly suggests the governor retains at least a rocky path to victory.
But, the news is not all favorable for Michaud. Considering that the congressman’s personal favorability index is a strong 53:30 percent, almost opposite that of LePage, it is surprising that his lead is only four points. Combining the elements of taking a poll just after his post-announcement tour, and brandishing a favorability rating that is net 40 points better than the incumbent’s suggests that Michaud still has much work to do if he is to unseat LePage. Additionally, as he did during the last election, Cutler is transforming into a viable wild-card candidate. Overcoming a 21-point deficit this early in the campaign cycle is a difficult, but not insurmountable task.
The We Ask America Illinois poll was conducted much earlier in the month (Aug. 6th, of 1,528 registered Illinois voters), but released only this week. The news website CapitolFax.com sponsored the survey. Here, Gov. Quinn leads his Democratic rivals but scores less than 30 percent support within a polling sample comprised exclusively of his own party members. The actual numbers post 28 percent for Quinn, with 23 percent supporting former White House chief of staff (Obama) and US Commerce Secretary Bill Daley. A new entry, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, attracts a preference of 13 percent.
The poll, however, may be a bit skewed, particularly as it concerns Sen. Raoul. In addition to naming the candidates a description is included for each man, words and phrases that obviously won’t appear on the ballot.
Quinn is identified as the incumbent governor, Daley as a former White House chief of staff, but fails to mention that the president he served was Obama, while Raoul is described as a state senator and African-American attorney from Chicago.
It’s hard to know precisely how the descriptive information affected the respondents’ answers, so we must wait to examine future polling data to better grasp the situation. Since more is said about Raoul, and done in a way to help him with African-American respondents and Chicago residents, it is reasonable to surmise that his standing may be a bit inflated.
In any event, skewed or not, this poll again confirms that Gov. Quinn clearly lacks majority support even within his own party, thus making his re-election chances fragile at best. Should the governor scratch and crawl to victory in this divided primary, his political fight will not be through, as the general election will likewise become hotly contested. Therefore, the eventual Republican nominee will be a viable opponent here despite Illinois’ reliable Democratic voting history.
Today, the Maine and Illinois gubernatorial campaigns figure to generate much controversy and excitement over the coming months. How they turn out is anyone’s guess, but incumbents faring this poorly in early polling tend not to fully recover.