* The problem with most pundits when it comes to estimating Sen. Kwame Raoul’s chances in a Democratic primary is that they speak from the gut instead of using any actual polling numbers or recent history. Ergo, my Sun-Times column…
A debate of sorts is raging about whether state Sen. Kwame Raoul would be a “spoiler” for Bill Daley if Raoul ran for governor.
The assumption is that Raoul, who is black, can’t win, but that he would take away so many African-American votes from Gov. Pat Quinn that Quinn would lose to Daley, who supposedly does so poorly with black voters that a Raoul candidacy wouldn’t hurt him.
I’ve commissioned some polling that should be helpful here.
A Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,394 likely Democratic primary voters on July 19 found that Quinn was leading Daley 38-33. In that poll, the governor was getting less than half — 47 percent — of the black vote, while Daley was getting 26 percent, which isn’t bad when you figure that another quarter of the black vote was still up for grabs.
I commissioned yet another poll of 1,528 likely Democratic primary voters on Aug. 6 and added Sen. Raoul’s name into the mix. In that Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll, Raoul was identified as a state senator and “an African-American attorney from Chicago.” Daley was identified as a former White House chief of staff and Quinn was identified as the governor.
The results showed Quinn led Daley by four points, 27-23, with Raoul getting 13. The Quinn-vs.-Daley spread barely changed from the July poll, belying the notion, at least so far, that Raoul is an automatic spoiler for Daley. Quinn’s lead over Daley dropped a lot among black Democrats with Raoul in the race, but Quinn went from trailing Daley among whites by two points in July to leading Daley by five when Raoul was put into the mix.
And Raoul’s score of 13 percent right off the bat is pretty darned good, especially considering that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has spent $2 million on TV and radio ads and is polling at about the same level as Raoul is now.
Why is that? Well, one reason is that history shows black voters tend to support legitimate black candidates, so Raoul doesn’t need to spend huge money to get himself into contention as long as he’s running a solid campaign.
Another big reason can be found in another poll I commissioned on Aug. 12, which found that 48 percent of 1,538 likely Democratic primary voters were dissatisfied with their choice between Quinn and Daley and 9 percent were unsure. So a clear 57 percent majority were either unhappy or ambivalent about the two announced candidates.
Among black Democrats, just 31 percent were satisfied and a huge 57 percent were dissatisfied with their two choices.
It’s pretty obvious that lots of Democrats want somebody else to run, and black Democrats are particularly eager to see another candidate get into the race. If Raoul can satisfy that very clear Democratic hunger for “somebody else,” then he has a real shot at winning.
With the help of most of his Democratic state Senate colleagues throughout the state and Senate President John Cullerton’s fund-raising and campaign infrastructure assistance, I think the numbers we have so far show that Raoul could overcome a somewhat late start and very well win this thing.
And what if Raoul loses and Daley wins? Nobody can totally rule that out. But a June 13 Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,322 likely Democratic primary voters found that just 28 percent of African-Americans approved of Pat Quinn’s job performance, while 40 percent disapproved. Blacks gave Quinn the lowest approval rating and the highest disapproval rating of any race or ethnicity. So, African-American Democrats obviously don’t care much for the governor’s tenure anyway.