Democratic incumbents running behind in Obama's home state 

House incumbents rarely run behind challengers in polls. The reason is that the incumbent is at least somewhat well known, having appeared on the ballot and having won an election at least once, while the challenger in most cases is not well known at all. So it’s noteworthy when incumbents trail challengers in polls, as several House Democrats have this year.

Tom Bevan of realclearpolitics.com highlights some Illinois polls by a hitherto unknown firm, We Ask America; Bevan interviewed the head of the firm and says he’s convinced the firm knows what it’s doing. The results are devastating. I’ve put the We Ask America poll numbers in tables, together with the Democratic and Republican percentages in the 2008 House contests and the percentages for Barack Obama and John McCain in the district.

                           2010 Poll       2008 Rep       2008 Pres

Illinois 8 (northwest suburbs of Chicago)

Melissa Bean (D)         38              60               56

Joe Walsh (R)             38              39               43

Illinois 10 (North Lakeshore suburbs of Chicago; incumbent Republican Mark Kirk is running for the Senate)

Dan Seals (D)             40              47               61

Bob Dold (R)              37               53              38

Illinois 11 (southern and southwest Chicago suburbs and exurbs)

Debbie Halvorsen (D)  30              58              53

Adam Kinzinger (R)     42              34              45

Illinois 14 (western Chicago exurbs and rural counties; formerly represented by Speaker Dennis Hastert)

Bill Foster (D)             36               58             55

Randy Hultgren (R)     38               42             44

Illinois 17 (downstate industrial areas; redistricted to be safe Democratic)

Phil Hare (D)              39             100            56

Bobby Schilling (R)      32                              42

Incumbents Foster and Halvorsen are trailing Republican challengers, and incumbent Bean is tied. The incumbent are running 20 points or more behind their 2008 percentages; they’ll get back some of those points as undecided Democrats go their way, but they’re still way behind where they were in 2008. Open seat candidate Seals, who got 47% of the vote against Mark Kirk in a 61% Obama district in 2006, is now at 40% and only barely ahead of a less well-known Republican. These are devastating results for Democrats in Barack Obama’s home district. By the way, National Review's Jim Geraghty reports that Public Opinion Research, the highly-regarded Republican polling firm, shows Kinzinger leading Halvorsen 44%-38% in the 11th district—a better result for Halvorsen than in the We Ask America poll but a similar number for the Republican.

To critics: I realize that some of these margins are not statistically significant. But it is politically significant when an incumbent House member is not ahead of a challenger by a statistically significant margin. Of these incumbents, only Phil Hare seems to lead by such a margin, while running 17% behind Obama 2008.

By the way, Bean, Halvorsen, Foster and Hare all voted for the Senate health care plan Sunday.

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Michael Daboll

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