Tammy Duckworth starts House race in strong position

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WASHINGTON–Former Veterans Administration assistant secretary Tammy Duckworth, the wounded Iraq war vet making a second try for Congress in the new 8th District, starts the race substantially ahead of Democratic rival Raja Krishnamoorthi, according to Duckworth’s poll.

I was shown the entire poll–by Normington, Petts & Associates–as Democrats potentially face an expensive Democratic primary in the new district, drawn by Illinois Democrats to bolster in the remap to favor Democrats.

The seat in the current 8th district is held by freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) who made a surprise win over Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) last November by about 300 votes. Walsh has not yet said if he would be running again from the new 8th district or if he would move to another district. Illinois Republican House members are challenging the Democratic remap, with a lawsuit to be filed in federal court in Chicago–possibly as early as today, Thursday.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters in the new 8th district–anchored in the northwest suburbs–was conducted July 10-12, with a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Duckworth–whose has had a fairly high profile since her 2006 run for Congress from the current 6th district–she lost to Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)– starts the contest with a big lead over Krishnamoorthi, 69 percent to 8 percent.

Krishnamoorthi–who lost a Democratic primary bid for comptroller last year– lags far behind in name identification over Duckworth, 76 percent to 15 percent.

Duckworth also starts the primary with higher favorables, 61 percent to 5 percent.

Krishnamoorthi has been in the race for months, and has secured the backing of blue chip Democratic names from the Chicago area, which proved helpful to him in fund-raising–people who backed him before Duckworth got into the race.

Duckworth could not send signals of her interest in a congressional bid because of her position as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she was banned from political activity.

Even with Krishnamoorthi getting a head start in campaigning, Duckworth’s poll has her doing better with base primary voters: females, seniors and liberals. The small number of voters who know both rivals prefer Duckworth 54 percent to 32 percent for Krishnamoorthi.

The poll also included short summaries of both candidates–glowing descriptions of both–including Krisnamoorthi’s ties to Obama– “Raja served as issues director for Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2004 and as an advisor to his presidential campaign” and Duckworth’s personal story and her record on veteran’s issues.

“After this simulation of millions of dollars worth of communication in the expensive Chicago market, Duckworth still leads 60 percent to 21 percent,” concluded Duckworth pollster Jill Normington in a polling memo.

“It seems likely that the only way Krishnamoorthi could narrow the race would be to launch a series of negative attacks against Duckworth. Not only would these be unlikely to succeed given the high esteem in which voters hold Duckworth, but these attacks would damage Democrats’ chance to pick up this lean Democratic seat. Any path back to the majority in the House, goes through Illinois-08,” she wrote.

Krishnamoorthi has said he will not step aside for the better known Duckworth. He has put together a professional campaign and has been fundraising.

Last June, Democrat John Atkinson, who had been exploring a run for Congress in the new 11th district, decided not to run from any district after the better known former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) decided to make a 2012 comeback bid. Atkinson’s departure avoided the potential of an expensive Democratic primary. CLARIFICATION: Atkinson was exploring a bid in the 3rd district, currently represented by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) The new map put Atkinson’s home in the 11th, so he mulled a run from that district. His main focus had been Lipinski. The Foster campaign saw Atkinson as a potential rival in the 11th. Atkinson decided not to run in either district and announced he was backing Foster.


Reaction to Duckworth poll from Krishamoorthi campaign spokesman Mike Murray:

“We are not surprised that a poll released by the Duckworth campaign shows a favorable position for Tammy, but the reality is that any poll conducted 8 months before an election is based solely upon name recognition. In the State Comptroller race, Raja started with just 6% support and came within an eyelash of winning the Democratic statewide primary against a party-backed, well-funded state legislator with a great ballot name. Today, even with modest name recognition, Raja has quickly raised over $400,000 in 5 and a half weeks, and he has assembled a formidable base of political and grassroots support. The fundamental issue in this election is who has the private sector experience and ideas to help revive the economy and protect the middle class. On that issue, Raja will fare very well.”


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