Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Cook shifts governor’s race from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democrat” - Third-party candidates “the tipping point”
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Cook shifts governor’s race from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democrat” - Third-party candidates “the tipping point”

Friday, Jul 20, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yesterday, Larry Sabato moved the Illinois governor’s race from lean to likely Democratic. Today is Charlie Cook’s turn

When it comes to rating races, it has long been our practice not to move extremely vulnerable incumbents into the other party’s territory until well into the election cycle – generally around Labor Day. Even then, they rarely move further than Lean. There are lots of good reasons for this policy, most of which grew out of lessons learned the hard way.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has held the dubious distinction of being the most vulnerable incumbent of the cycle, and despite much heckling, has been sitting in the Toss Up column. But, the race recently hit a tipping point that moves it into the Lean Democrat column.

There are lots of reasons not to jump the gun on what amounts to waving the white flag on an incumbent’s chances for re-election. Some of them include the power of incumbency, the competence of an opponent’s campaign, and the increasing unreliability of public polls. All three factors collided in 2016 when Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was seeking re-election and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, whom Johnson had defeated six years earlier, was running to avenge his loss. There were 56 general election polls in that race, and Johnson was only ahead in four of them. Given those statistics, Johnson was moved into the Lean Democratic column pretty early in 2016. But, 15 of the 56 surveys went into the field between October 15 and Election Day, and Johnson was (barely) ahead in three of them. Johnson won the contest, 50 percent to 47 percent for Feingold and 3 percent for a Libertarian candidate. Of course, it wasn’t until after the election when Democratic operatives shredded Feingold’s campaign, holding it up as an example of malpractice. We put Johnson back into the Toss Up column 10 days before the election and no amount of second-guessing will resolve the question of whether Johnson should ever have left the Toss Up column.

One factor guaranteed to hurt an incumbent locked in a close race is the presence of one or more third-party candidates on the ballot. Again in 2016, GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire lost her re-election bid to Democrat Maggie Hassan by just 1,017 votes. But, there were two other candidates on the ballot running to Ayotte’s right; they combined for 30,339 votes, costing Ayotte the election. There are similar stories from statewide races in Montana in 2006 where Libertarians cost Republicans elections, and multiple elections in New Mexico in which Green Party candidates undercut Democratic nominees. It is rare when third party and independent candidates are truly competitive. More often than not they simply serve as spoilers for one party or the other.

It is the presence of a Conservative Party candidate and a Libertarian on the ballot that has created the latest obstacle to re-election for Rauner, and is the tipping point that moves the race into the Lean Democrat column. Rauner has had a very difficult tenure. First, he is a Republican in a very blue state, and while he is relatively moderate, he hasn’t enjoyed the same levels of popularity and success that fellow GOP Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts or Larry Hogan of Maryland have experienced. His job ratings have sunk under the weight of a long-running battle (and its aftermath) over the budget, and adversarial relationships with state House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who have proven adept at robbing Rauner of victories.

There’s more, including reliance on what I would consider some dubious polling, but whatevs. A pundit consensus is most definitely building.


  1. - Anon0091 - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    I was surprised to see the “Victory Research” numbers in their analysis, but I suppose under the theory that even a broken clock is right twice a day…

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 11:58 am:

    –Third-party candidates “the tipping point”–


    At this snapshot in time, I think a combined six points from McCann and Jackson is perfectly reasonable.

    And they come straight out of Rauner’s tukkus.

    Rauner can win, but he’s going to need some screwball turnovers by Pritzker and deep completions down the field on offense.

  3. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 11:59 am:

    As soccer teams say after a score, it’s still 0 to 0. The idea is to maintain maximum effort. Keep pulling out all stops to get rid of our failed, not-in-charge, governor.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:03 pm:

    Bruce Rauner has no constituency. Raunerism is being rejected by the Right, and Labor and Dems aren’t giving any benefit of a doubt, as an incumbent’s record speaks for itself.

    You can’t be an incumbent and be polling 27%. Can’t. It’s a clear indicator voters don’t like and/or trust you. Rauner lost trust often, especially lying to a Catholic Cardinal.

    Two things to watch, however.

    Pritzker’s Crew, for the record, admitted they have no idea if there are any more Rod tapes, which also means they woefully have inadequate oppo on themselves, which may come back to haunt.

    Further, if the national talking points, married to wholly false accusations continue, the trust Pritzker has (which is great than Rauner) will dissipate and Indies and Republicans not in the Rauner camp may abandon Pritzker too.

    We’ll see.

    Rauner is the worst Republican governor and most vulnerable governor in America. These rating right now are not surprising.

  5. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:03 pm:

    Sam can’t win, but he can take out a sitting Governor, which is almost as good.

    I’m sure McCann is having a lot of fun on the campaign trail.

  6. - train111 - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:03 pm:

    One thing I noticed in the local parade out in Western DuPage was that the GOP float had no mention of either Trump or Rauner (after Rauner personally campaigned at the same parade last year). JB people were out en-masse. GOP lackadaisical - Dems fired up and in force. If the GOP thinks they can just “call it in” in DuPage and expect to win like always, they are in for a world od hurt.


  7. - PublicServant - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:07 pm:

    Yes, and today Moody’s raised our financial outlook to positive.

  8. - JS Mill - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:25 pm:

    =At this snapshot in time, I think a combined six points from McCann and Jackson is perfectly reasonable.=

    If this happens, boy…Karma sure is a son of a gun.

  9. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:26 pm:

    6 points for Mc Cann and Jackson?

    Any polling on Mc Cann or Jackson?

    What is in your Kool Aid, hopium?

  10. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:27 pm:

    == today Moody’s raised our financial outlook to positive. ==

    Probably expecting stability (on time budgets) and increased revenue (graduated income tax or expanded service tax) going forward.

  11. - Arsenal - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:37 pm:


    No Rauner support in Christian County parades either. Not too surprising- they were one of the county orgs that refused to pass his petitions in the primary.

  12. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:38 pm:

    == 6 points for Mc Cann and Jackson? ==

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict Sam alone gets about 15 points. There are lots of far right voters who liked Ives and won’t vote for Rauner.

  13. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:38 pm:

    ===6 points for Mc Cann and Jackson?

    Any polling on Mc Cann or Jackson?===

    Here… this is the cite…

    ===The most recent survey, a Victory Research poll (June 26-28 of 1,208 likely voters) had Pritzker leading with 45 percent, followed by Rauner with 30 percent, Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann with 5 percent and Libertarian Kash Jackson with 2 percent.===

    Dubious as it is…

  14. - Arsenal - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:41 pm:

    ==What is in your Kool Aid, hopium?==

    Well sir, Chad Grimm on his own got 3%. 2 candidates doubling that seems pretty reasonable.

  15. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:42 pm:

    ===I’ll go out on a limb and predict Sam alone gets about 15 points===

    That’s quite a thin limb.

    Except for the old Solidarity Party (when Democrats fled the ticket after the LaRouche invasion), I don’t think any third-party candidate has received more than 10 points for governor.

  16. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:49 pm:

    Sam getting anything above 5% could be the damage Rauner can’t recover from in this dynamic.

    Rauner having no constituency allows that 5% window to not only be open, but the window needs a garage door size shutter to close it.

  17. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:54 pm:

    Pritzker should push marijuana legalization. It’s supposed to be a main issue in his campaign. This ought to appeal to a lot of voters statewide. Make the contrast, that Rauner is against it. Talk about criminal justice reform and economic opportunities. Talk about tax revenue benefits. Try to get certain voters excited to vote.

  18. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:55 pm:

    Rich, yeah, I know I am way out there (banned puncuation). But this is going to be an unusual election. I don’t think history will be much guidance this year

    If you go to the RT-66 car show the end of September and Sam isn’t close to or in double digits by then, I’ll buy you a drink.

  19. - Sparky791 - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 12:56 pm:

    Still have not seen a Rauner sign in Shelby County. Last time they were all over. Do see a few JB signs. IMO as of today Rauner is toast.

  20. - Pundent - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:00 pm:

    I don’t know if Sam will get 15% but if we learned anything from the Ives campaign it’s that conservatives are very angry. Her name recognition was poor and she was significantly underfunded. I don’t think any of us saw the race as close as it was. I’m sure some of those votes will come back to Rauner. But there will be those that see this race as a lost cause and will want to send a message. It might not be 15% but it could surprise a few folks.

  21. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:12 pm:

    Sen McCann - we will not forget what you did in this election cycle.

  22. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:13 pm:

    ===Sen McCann - we will not forget what you did in this election cycle.===

    … so thank you.

  23. - PublicServant - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:18 pm:

    Sam, your constituents thank you.

  24. - Been There - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:18 pm:

    ======I’ll go out on a limb and predict Sam alone gets about 15 points===

    That’s quite a thin limb===

    I think so too. But I do think there will be a large percent of conservatives who just stay home. Same result though.

  25. - wordslinger - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:23 pm:

    –What is in your Kool Aid, hopium?–

    My, a mixed metaphor and a regurgitation of Kass, to boot.

    The LuckyBot programmers in Kazan — not much of a work force.

  26. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 1:23 pm:

    Rauner will be lucky to break 30%.
    Conservative would rather lose to Pritzker than see Rauner in a position of power. Rauner can’t rebuild all the bridges he merrily burned down between half the GOP and his incompetent administration.

  27. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 2:21 pm:

    Rauner politically assaulted Sen. McCann, who won that battle because government workers backed him. He earned respect, in my opinion, because he was a person of his word and put himself in such peril. A pro-worker guy with conservative stances, opposite from the anti-worker limousine neoliberal guy who lies about abortion, is socially liberal and caves to Madigan on taxes and budgets.

  28. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 3:28 pm:

    –What is in your Kool Aid, hopium?–
    Is Lucky Pierre actually John Kass? No one else uses that term. And LP’s arguments are just as weak as Kass’.

  29. - LXB - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 3:41 pm:

    There are obviously plenty of idiosyncrasies to different elections, but Duckworth won 55-40, with 3 to the Libertarian and 2 to the Green. That seems like a reasonable expected trajectory barring a surprise. With no Green on the ballot and multiple candidates running to his right, making up 15 points is quite a lift for Rauner.

  30. - Steve - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 3:51 pm:

    The Illinois Governor’s race really is/has been likely Democrat. This is a big Blue state, it would be extremely difficult for Rauner to win against any Democrat candidate in 2018. The real question is : will Rauner lose by more than 8% ?

  31. - wordslinger - Friday, Jul 20, 18 @ 4:01 pm:

    –I don’t think any third-party candidate has received more than 10 points for governor.–


    But McCann is the only sure thing for single-issue anti-abortion voters.

    I think six points from McCann and Jackson is eminently reasonable. The Libertarian last time broke three points.

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