Two new polls show pretty much the same thing: Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka is the only Republican with a solid lead over Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich.
An independent poll conducted by the Glengariff Group and a poll paid for by a Republican businessman both show Topinka leading the governor in head-to-head matchups. Topinka announced her intentions to run for governor last Monday.
The independent Glengariff Group poll of 600 registered voters had Topinka leading Blagojevich 38 to 31. Those who said they didn't know were then asked which way they were leaning, and with those results factored in Topinka had a hefty 50-39 lead over the governor. The poll had a margin of error of 4 percent and was taken November 2-5.
The Republican poll, conducted by Tel Opinion research, surveyed 800 registered voters November 6 and 7 and had Topinka leading Blagojevich 47-35, with 18 percent undecided. That poll's margin of error was 3.5 percent.
Neither poll found any of the other Republican candidates leading Blagojevich, although when the "leaners" are factored into the Glengariff Group's results, two Republicans, Joe Birkett and Patrick O'Malley, were narrowly ahead.
The Republican poll had Blagojevich leading Oberweis 42-32 with 26 percent undecided. Glengariff had Blagojevich ahead of Oberweis 36-31, and 43-41 with "leaners."
The GOP poll had Gov. Blagojevich ahead of Ron Gidwitz 42-23. Glengariff had Blagojevich in front of Gidwitz 33-13, or 40-39 with leaners. Gidwitz has spent a fortune on TV and radio ads and direct mail to date.
The Republican survey had the governor in front of Sen. Steve Rauschenberger 42-27. Glengariff had Blagojevich leading 33-27, and 40-38 with leaners factored into the equation.
The Republican poll found Blagojevich was leading Sen. Bill Brady 41-25. The Glengariff Group had Blagojevich ahead 32-26, or 40-39 with leaners.
Glengariff also asked about former Sen. Patrick O'Malley and DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett. Blagojevich led O'Malley 34-30, but O'Malley led Blagojevich 42-39 with leaners. Blagojevich led Birkett 32-26, but Birkett was ahead 40-39 with leaners. Birkett is not expected to run for governor, but he may run for another office. O'Malley has quietly flirted with the idea of running, showing up for at least one candidates forum, but has not indicated that he will actually make the race.
The Glengariff poll found that Topinka was winning 25 percent of the Democratic vote (with leaners), a crucial point because of the "Glenn Poshard Factor."
The pro-life, pro-gun, anti gay rights Democrat Poshard lost the 1998 governor's race partly because many liberals abandoned him for George Ryan. But Poshard was not able to pick up a significant number of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents to overcome that loss (except in far southern Illinois). Hardcore conservatives could abandon Topinka next fall, although they probably won't vote for Blagojevich, so she may need some Dem votes.
Rauschenberger, Birkett and Oberweis scored 13 percent of Democrats (with leaners), Gidwitz had 15 percent, Brady had 12 percent, O'Malley had 18 percent. Topinka also has the highest percentage of Republican support in a general election matchup at 85 percent, with leaners.
The Glengariff Group found that just 17 percent believed that Governor Blagojevich had "cleaned up corruption," while 11 percent believed he had made it worse and 58 percent said he had made no difference.
63 percent of independents, 61 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats believed that the governor had made no difference in corruption. 61 percent of males and 55 percent of females said he had made no difference. 21 percent of southern Illinoisans believed he had made it worse. Just 26 percent of Chicagoans, 30 percent of Democrats, 6 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of independents believed he cleaned it up. The governor obviously has a long way to go to convince people that he hasn't broken his promise to "end business as usual."
The Republican poll also found the governor's job approval to be 44 percent, while his disapproval was 48 percent. That's the highest job approval number for Blagojevich that any poll has found in almost a year - the only truly encouraging result from either poll.
If these numbers don't change soon, Blagojevich will need every penny of his expected $25 million war chest to win next year.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at capitolfax.blogspot.com