Surprising Choice in Virginia; Strange Poll in Illinois

June 30, 2015 — Saturday’s meeting of the Virginia Republican State Central Committee (SCC) was thought to be the venue for adopting the convention presidential nominating option, but a surprise secret ballot vote changed the committee’s direction.

Eighty-two SCC members participated in the Staunton, Va. meeting to determine the apportionment system for the state’s 49 Republican presidential delegates. Though a primary was held in 2008, Virginia has typically been known as a convention state. Most of the state Republican nominees have been chosen in this fashion before assemblages usually exceeding 12,000 individuals.

Things started to unravel for the pro-convention contingent when a motion was made to convene in executive session for purposes of considering a measure to allow a secret ballot vote on the question of convention or primary, instead of employing the traditional roll call method. When the vote to adopt a secret ballot procedure passed on a 41-39 vote with two abstentions, it became apparent that the primary forces had a shot at carrying the day. When tabulated, the vote for a primary system was adopted 42-39, with one member abstaining.

The salient argument – that Republican voters should decide who Virginia supports at the Republican National Convention – was preferred over the controlling party leaders’ position who generally want to keep the process limited and closed in order to stop Democrats from influencing the GOP nomination. The vote for a primary means the 49 Old Dominion presidential convention delegates will be divided proportionally based upon an open primary vote on Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

Illinois Senate

It is well known that the Illinois Senate race is likely the Republicans’ most difficult incumbent retention campaign to win. Here, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) faces a tough re-election battle. But, a new local Chicago Ogden & Fry research firm poll (June 23; 708 registered Illinois voters responding to Kirk approval question; 598 answering the Senate ballot test) now forecasts him to be in dire straits. Their results, however, are not consistent with internal race data or past voting history, nor do they seem reasonable.

According to the Ogden & Fry survey, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) holds a 44-27 percent lead over Sen. Kirk. The senator’s job approval registers a poor 17:31 percent, favorable to unfavorable.

Both of these results are hard to believe. First, earlier this year at least according to his own internal polls, Sen. Kirk’s favorability was at its peak and no poll has ever showed him at such a low level throughout his five-year tenure as a statewide elected official.

Second, the undecided factor is exceedingly high; again, an unusual result considering Kirk has been a recognizable figure for the past six years. Though the poll was taken after Sen. Kirk made his now famous quip about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) marital status – “he’s a bro with no ho” – it is highly doubtful that such a blip would so dramatically affect his statewide approval rating.

The ballot test is unfathomable, as well. For any non-scandal tainted incumbent to poll under 30 percent in a statewide survey under normal political circumstances is unrealistic. Rep. Duckworth posting 44 percent is within the realm of possibility, but for the Kirk number to drop so drastically, and not be reflected in internal polling, suggests the Ogden & Fry results are unreliable.

Though no national pollster has conducted an Illinois survey during this calendar year, we will soon see a plethora of polling activity in this race. A Kirk-Duckworth race promises to be one of the nation’s top Senate campaigns, irrespective of the questionable data found in this latest public survey.

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