SPRINGFIELD — After trailing Republican Bruce Rauner by double digits, Gov. Pat Quinn has brought the governor’s race to a statistical dead heat, new polling data released Sunday showed.
Among likely voters, the Winnetka Republican led Quinn by a 44- to 41-percent spread with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, according to automated polling done Thursday by We Ask America.
Libertarian Chad Grimm, whose campaign was permitted last week by a Sangamon County judge to remain on the Nov. 4 ballot, stood at 6 percent in the new poll.
We Ask America’s most recent polling on the race published Sept. 3 by Reboot Illinois had Rauner up on the incumbent Chicago Democrat by a 46- to 38-percent margin. An Aug. 6 poll done by the group for the Chicago Sun-Times had Rauner with a 13-point lead.
“There is a lot of time left, but Mr. Rauner continues to lose ground,” We Ask America’s chief operating officer Gregg Durham told Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times’ online political portal.
“Whatever messaging Gov. Quinn has done is causing movement. But some of this movement is simply Democrats coming back home — who early on weren’t so sure about staying with Gov. Quinn,” Durham said.
Quinn is polling better than Rauner among women with a 44- to 42-percent advantage, with Grimm drawing 4 percent. Rauner is up among men, leading 47 to 42 percent, with Grimm polling at 8 percent.
A Quinn spokeswoman expressed optimism in the new findings.
“As people tune into the election, it’s encouraging they are recognizing that Gov. Quinn is making the tough decisions and getting the job done to move Illinois forward,” Quinn campaign spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. “While there’s more work to do, Illinois is moving in the right direction under the governor’s leadership as evidenced by the fact that unemployment is at its lowest point in six years. Unemployment is down and jobs are up, and our economy is making a comeback.
“We expect this will continue to be a very competitive race, particularly since billionaire Republican Bruce Rauner will spare no cost to try and buy the election. It looks like the more voters find out about the real Bruce Rauner — and his plan for Illinois that benefits the very wealthy while hurting working families — the less interested they are in voting for him,” Anderson said.
Quinn’s television-advertising campaign, of late, has offered a mix of homespun messaging in which the governor has been shown mowing his lawn and driving away in a Ford Explorer and a harsher ad keying on Medicaid fraud allegations involving a New York company once owned by Rauner’s onetime private equity investment firm.
Quinn also has been airing an ad on African-American radio in Chicago questioning the lack of diversity in the workforce at Rauner’s former firm, GTCR.
Rauner, meanwhile, has taken to the airwaves with an attack tying Quinn to his onetime running mate, imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and to the two Chicago Democrats who lead supermajorities in the House and Senate: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
“Gov Quinn’s ads have been very well done and seem to have focused on the themes of Rauner’s business practices and the questioning of whether someone that successful can be a good governor,” Durham said. “To be fair, I think Rauner really hasn’t unleashed the hounds yet.”
Rauner campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf steered clear Sunday of offering any sense of what might be behind the apparent tightening in the campaign and whether internal Rauner polling is showing the same trend.
“It’s clear a large majority of Illinoisans are ready for a change after 100 years of Cullerton, Madigan, Quinn and Blagojevich. Voters know Pat Quinn has failed and Bruce is the only candidate they can trust to clean up Springfield and bring back Illinois,” Schrimpf said in a prepared statement.
We Ask America is an independent subsidiary of the Rauner-backing Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, which has given the Republican candidate for governor $350,000 in contributions since July.
Durham, who maintains his group’s polling is done without the knowledge or involvement of the IMA, said the polling organization is not in the field for any gubernatorial candidate or group that is doing independent expenditure work on behalf of a candidate.