A recent statewide poll showed Gov. Rod Blagojevich's job approval rating was lower than President George W. Bush's.
As if that isn't astounding in and of itself - that a Democratic governor in a Democratic state would be polling worse than a wildly unpopular lame-duck Republican president - there was even more bad news for the governor when you looked closer.
Blagojevich's political base appears to be deserting him.
The poll had Blagojevich's job approval rating at 22 percent (5 percent rated his performance as excellent and 17 percent said it was good) while his disapproval rating was 78 percent (25 percent fair and 53 percent poor).
By contrast, President Bush's job approval rating in Illinois was 32 percent and his disapproval was 67 percent. Another poll, taken by a different firm back in July, had Blagojevich's approval at 25 percent and his disapproval at 64 percent, so the latest numbers appear to hold up. The Rasmussen Reports poll of 500 likely Illinois voters was taken August 22nd.
Take a look at the crosstabs, though, and things are even worse than they appear to be.
Blagojevich has courted African-American voters for years, and it paid off. He scored higher in most black Chicago wards and Cook County townships than Cook County Board President Todd Stroger did last November. According to official exit polling, Blagojevich won 80 percent of the African-American vote last fall.
But the details of the Rasmussen poll have Blagojevich's current approval among African-American voters at 41 percent and his disapproval at 57 percent. That's a worse showing in that demographic than any poll I can find since the man was first elected.
The governor is also doing worse with female voters than with male voters, according to Rasmussen. 84 percent of women rate his job performance as either fair (30) or poor (54), while "just" 70 percent of men rate his performance as unsatisfactory. That's truly astonishing when you consider that the governor's sweeping and much-publicized health care proposals are aimed right at women and minority voters. Also, Blagojevich won a majority of the female vote last fall, 53 percent, while getting just 45 percent of the male vote, according to the exit polling.
The governor is also getting clobbered by his own Democratic voters. Just 29 percent of Democrats said he was doing an excellent or good job, while 71 percent rated him negatively.
There was one consolation for the governor in that Rasmussen poll. While 53 percent of all voters blamed the governor for the seemingly never-ending "budget stalemate" and just 19 percent blamed the state legislature, only 11 percent of African-American voters blamed the governor for the current mess in Springfield and a solid majority of 57 percent blamed the legislature.
If those results are accurate (polling subset numbers always have a higher margin of error than the "toplines") then you'd think that any state legislators with a lot of African-American voters in their districts might want to watch their backs, particularly House members.
The House Democrats, led by Speaker Michael Madigan, have been engaged in a brutal political battle with Governor Blagojevich for months. The battle became a full-scale war in August when the governor slashed millions of dollars of programs from the state budget that had been inserted by House Democratic members.
The war has now progressed even further. It appears Gov. Blagojevich and his ally Senate President Emil Jones are backing some candidates against incumbent African-American House members in the upcoming Democratic primary. The object appears to be to paint the incumbent Democrats as obstructionists to Gov. Blagojevich's dream of health insurance for all, and tools of House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Madigan, whom the governor has slammed as a "right wing Republican" on countless occasions for his legislative coalition building with the GOP.
Madigan has the best political operation at the Statehouse, and when forced to choose between their own legislator and the governor, African-American voters will probably respond quite differently than when given a generic Blagojevich vs. General Assembly choice.
In other words, this is a very dangerous game for Blagojevich. His poll numbers are trending down, not up. He'll not only have to funnel money to those challengers, but he'll have to spend lots of cash on himself in an attempt to raise his ratings. And considering his shoddy governmental performance to date, lifting those poll numbers may not be a very easy task.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com