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Capitol Fax - Rich Miller

SPRINGFIELD SCOOP: Pritzker surges ahead of the Democratic pack

Kennedy, Biss haven’t clicked with voters yet

Kennedy, Biss haven’t clicked with voters yet

Democrat J.B. Pritzker spent $21 million on his gubernatorial campaign through the end of September and recently opened his tenth campaign field office. The billionaire spent more money on staff and consultants last quarter ($1.5 million) than any of his primary opponents raised.

The spending appears to be paying off. A new Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,154 likely Democratic primary voters has Pritzker with 39 percent of the vote, far ahead of the rest of the pack.

Chris Kennedy, who has struggled to raise money and hasn’t run any TV ads to date, was at just 15 percent – a whopping 24 points behind the front-runner Pritzker. Word is going around that one of Pritzker's own recent polls had him ahead of Kennedy by 17 points.

State Sen. Daniel Biss, who has had more success at raising money than expected, but appears to be hoarding most of it for later, was at just 6 percent in the poll taken Oct. 17-18 with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent. 

The other two Democrats, Tio Hardiman and Bob Daiber, each polled at just 1 percent. Forty-seven percent of the poll’s respondents were made to mobile phones by live callers. Automated calls were made to landline users.

Is it over? No. The primary isn’t until March. With 36 percent of Democrats currently undecided, somebody could still make this a race – but that somebody is gonna have to run a better campaign than they are now. And right now, the only person running a full-on campaign operation is Pritzker.

“There will be plenty of polls in this race,” the Kennedy campaign claimed, “but clearly there's a reluctance among Democratic voters to support J.B. After spending more than $20 million and being unchallenged on TV for months, that he can only get about a third of the electorate to support him shows that voters are looking for fundamental change. They recognize J.B. is an extension of the status quo. There's a long way to go until March and we're confident that when voters tune into the race and hear Chris Kennedy's message, we win.”

If you look at Kennedy’s poll that he released in July, its Kennedy-Pritzker matchup had Pritzker at 38 percent, which is about the same place as he is now. Kennedy was at 44 percent, but this new poll shows he has dropped like a rock – perhaps because he isn’t on TV and doesn’t have nearly the ground game that Pritzker does. Either way, the margin is what’s important, and the margin is huge.

Pritzker leads in every region of the state. He’s at 39 percent in Chicago, 42 in suburban Cook County, 37 in the suburban collar counties, and 39 downstate. Kennedy does best in Chicago and the collars, at 18 percent. Biss does best in suburban Cook, where he lives, at 11 percent.

Biss slightly outpolls Kennedy, 13-12, among 18-24-year-olds, but Pritzker takes the traditionally low-turnout (particularly in off-years) demographic with 27 percent. Pritzker leads his two top rivals, Kennedy and Biss, among women, 39-15-5, and among men, 40-16-8. More women (39 percent) are undecided than men (33 percent).

The poll found that 56 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of Pritzker, while 7 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Another 16 percent hadn’t yet heard of the billionaire, and 21 percent were neutral.

Kennedy’s favorables were 41 percent, and his unfavorables were just 4 percent. But 30 percent hadn’t heard of him, and another 25 percent were neutral, signaling that if he could ever raise any real money, he might possibly be able to make this a race. But that clock is ticking as Pritzker continues to spend millions.

Kennedy does best among the 65 and over crowd, with 17 percent. And his favorable numbers are significantly higher among respondents aged 55-64 (42 percent) and 65-plus (43 percent). That makes sense since those folks would have been alive when Kennedy’s father, Robert, and his uncle, John, were in the public eye.  

According to the poll, 69 percent of Democrats have not yet heard of Sen. Biss. Surprisingly enough, that’s actually more than the 66 percent who hadn’t heard of Bob Daiber and the 60 percent who hadn’t heard of Tio Hardiman, although Hardiman did run against Pat Quinn in the 2014 Democratic primary.

Just 13 percent of Democrats gave Biss a favorable rating, compared to 3 percent who rated him unfavorably and 15 percent who were neutral. Both Hardiman and Daiber had slightly higher favorable ratings than Biss (15 percent for each).

It seems like everything in politics has been on an accelerated timetable this year, so Biss had better do something fast. 

Note to readers: Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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