* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…
Some recent Chicago Tribune poll resulst appear to indicate that support for raising the minimum wage in the state’s largest city may be enough to increase voter turnout for a non-binding November ballot referendum.
The poll found that 84 percent of registered Chicago voters support a city task force recommendation to increase the minimum wage to $13 per hour over the next three years. According to the poll, 78 percent of whites and 92 percent of African-Americans and even 71 percent of Chicagoans making over $100,000 a year back the plan.
Democrats have been hoping to use the statewide non-binding referendum to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour as a tool to help spur turnout in what is rapidly developing into a big Republican year. And with numbers like the Tribune’s backing a much higher minimum wage, it does seem likely that the issue can be effective, particularly among African-Americans. Support above 70-80 percent is generally seen as having a ballot impact. Get above 90 and it’s sure to drive votes. Then again, the comparatively “stingy” state ballot proposal, when compared to the Chicago proposal, might garner lesser enthusiasm.
Proponents are hoping to use the issue to convince 400,000 people to sign “pledge cards” stating they will definitely vote this November. So far, they’ve collected 70,000 cards, which they will use to track the signatories through election day.
The bigger question, though, is what Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan does with all the money he’s been raising to push the ballot initiative. Madigan, who is also the state Democratic Party chairman, has been traveling the country to raise cash. Everybody who chipped in to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2012 is being paid a visit. Labor unions alone spent over $20 million on that race, and Madigan is telling those labor leaders that they can spend the money now to defeat the anti-union Bruce Rauner, or spend the money later to fight Rauner after he’s elected.
The Republicans are attempting to convince themselves that Madigan will spend that cash on his hottest state legislative races instead of in Chicago and south suburban Cook County, where it would do the most good for the statewide ticket because of high numbers of African-Americans. Democrats have often complained in the past that “coordinated campaign” money has been redirected to Madigan’s legislative races, and they’re not sure what he’ll do this year.
Most are fairly certain that Madigan won’t have his candidates run away from the top of the ticket. The Speaker tried that in 1994, during a huge Republican wave. Late in the game, photos of Republican Gov. Jim Edgar started appearing in Democratic legislative mailers. But that backfired in a major way. It just helped Edgar win by a larger margin, which swept away Madigan’s candidates. Madigan has to do whatever he can to boost Gov. Pat Quinn’s prospects within his districts, and that means lots of voter registration and get out the vote activities. And none of those all important districts are in Chicago or south suburban Cook County.
But it won’t be easy. I’ve seen some private polling results recently that show Quinn doing even worse than expected in suburban counties where Madigan has some other tough races. My own polling has shown Bruce Rauner doing quite well in suburban Cook County, which has trended Democratic over the years and will be the scene of several hotly contested Illinois House races.
And, the other day, a top Democratic strategist derided the Quinn campaign’s attempt to convince Illinoisans that the job and economic situation is starting to turn around as “stupid.”
“They’re telling voters not to believe their own lying eyes,” he complained. Focus groups, he said, are finding that voters “are so mad at the state of things that it insults their intelligence to tell them things are changing, especially in the Downstate communities.”
The Democrat had knowledge of one particular Downstate congressional focus group which found people were “openly hostile to Quinn - like punch him if he was in the room at the time hostile.” Madigan has one Tier One contest in that congressional district and another adjacent to the district.
So, keep an eye on Chicago and south suburban Cook “get out the vote” efforts. It’s Gov. Quinn’s best hope right now and a likely drain on Madigan’s resources. If he spends lots of cash there, Quinn just might make this thing a close one.
* Paul Green breaks it down…
Quinn needs Chicago to come alive in ’14. He needs a huge minority vote turnout – plus he must stress the social issues – along the lakefront and on the near west side. And lastly on the northwest and southwest sides, he must talk about “income inequity” – whether it’s Rauner’s personal wealth or his wealthy close friends’ huge donations to his campaign.
No matter how many Chicagoans vote – Rauner could be in trouble if he falls below 20% of the city vote.
From 1976 to 1998, Republican gubernatorial candidates won seven straight victories (Jim Thompson – 4; Jim Edgar – 2; George Ryan – 1). In every one of those elections, the GOP candidate carried suburban Cook County by at least 100,000 votes. In fact, Ryan’s 1998 win was the lowest victory margin for a Republican candidate (109,000 votes/57.6%) in the party’s “mansion” winning streak. To some observers (including me) this margin drop-off was an omen of real demographic political change taking place in suburban Cook. In the three Democratic gubernatorial wins since 1998, their candidate has won suburban Cook – thereby adding to and not subtracting from the expected margin win in Chicago. (The vote margin numbers: 2002 – 50,924; 2006 – 103,880; 2010 – 100,250.)
Clearly, Rauner needs to reestablish a solid GOP vote in suburban Cook. He could do that by doing better than expected in the heavily minority south suburbs, convincing wealthy north suburban residents that his business background can fix the state’s fiscal woes or winning back once rock-rib GOP voters living in northwest and southwest townships and convincing them that he can not only win, but in doing so can resurrect the Republican party statewide. It is indeed a mighty task, but for Rauner to beat Quinn in 2014 he must do some or all of the above. Why? I do not believe it is an overstatement to predict “as goes suburban Cook – so goes the state.” Said another way, “Whoever wins suburban Cook will be sworn in as Illinois governor in 2015.”
* Paul Merrion in Crain’s…
“It’s hard to see how Quinn can win if he can’t pull out at least a million votes from Cook County, absent surprisingly low turnout everywhere else,” says Brian Gaines, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. […]
As of Aug. 19, there are roughly 10,000 fewer registered voters in Chicago than during the 2010 election, a decline of less than 1 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. But the most intense efforts by voter registration groups are just getting underway.
“Everyone is doing organizing now, but the big push comes in September for most,” says Cook County Clerk David Orr, who oversees voter registration in the suburbs.
Higher registration helps the Quinn campaign only if it can get people to the polls. “We will be outspent; we expect that,” Quinn campaign spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says. “Turning out the vote will be very important to the campaign.”
* This isn’t just about putting boots on the ground. The Sun-Times visited Quinn’s war room and spoke with the campaign’s digital director, Christopher Hass, who worked on President Obama’s two campaigns…
With Hass and other members of the Obama 2008 and 2012 teams aboard, Quinn is counting on the digital aspect of the campaign to turn out big numbers in November as he tries to beat Republican Bruce Rauner.
“It is certainly one of the largest, if not the largest in-house digital teams for a statewide race right now,” Hass told the Chicago Sun-Times. […]
Hass said the Quinn camp’s approach is more targeted. For instance, early on, the campaign connected with people who supported an increase to the minimum wage. After identifying those people, they recruited volunteers, and worked to expand their field campaign or social media presence. He also has learned it’s up to the campaign to educate voters who are looking up information on a candidate online. […]
“We work very closely with the communication team to amplify their message and work closely with the field team. We do a lot of recruitment for them,” Hass says. […]
As early voting begins, the digital team works with tracking who has voted.
“We are able to see within our universe of people who support us, how many have voted. Then you start to narrow that down as you go. I think that’s one of the areas that digital can be a huge force,” Hass says. “As we look at our lists and say, “OK, these are the people who haven’t voted, these are the people we need to focus our attention on.”
Then supporters are asked to apply social pressure on friends, neighbors or family members.
“You may not listen to me but you may listen to your mom. So if your mom is a Quinn supporter, [she] may say: ‘Gotta get those kids out to the early vote location,’ ” Hass says. “What we found in 2012, there were some people we just couldn’t reach on the phone. We found that social media and through the Internet was perhaps the only way we could ever reach them.”