Eye On Illinois: What’s moving needle in governor’s race? Will anything?

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Has anything changed?

Eight weeks ago today polls closed to end Illinois’ primary election, and although sorting out the official counts always takes a few weeks, there was no doubt on June 28 the gubernatorial race would pit incumbent Democrat JB Pritzker against Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia.

So with 11 weeks remaining until election day, has anything changed?

Polling analysts could get in the weeds to break down trends or movements of a few points here or there. But while polling is informative, it’s never prescriptive, and after two months of this particular campaign, one question looms above the rest: in a time of political polarization, with two candidates entrenched in their respective party’s main stream, are there truly undecided voters?

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

Surely some folks haven’t yet made up their mind or aren’t even paying attention. But it seems unlikely that group contains enough voters to swing results on Nov. 8.

Both candidates are resolute in their positions. Running on a record is expected from an incumbent governor with legislative majorities and some signature accomplishments. “Democrats deliver,” they crowed at the state fair last week, and although Pritzker hasn’t met every one of his 2018 campaign goals, he carries himself with the confidence of someone expecting to again get somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.4 million votes.

Bailey offers his own consistency. Ideologically he’s virtually identical to the candidate who won a House seat in 2018 and advanced to the Senate in 2020. He’s been one of Pritzker’s loudest General Assembly critics long before launching the gubernatorial bid. During his state fair showing, Bailey played up his agricultural heritage with a tractor-driving photo op and, rather than make laudatory overtures to urban voters doubled down on his assertion that Chicago is a hellhole and insisted most residents agree with him and hope he’ll be the one to make positive changes.

Pritzker leans in to the issues his opponents loathe: abortion access, gun regulations, union advocacy and criminal justice reform. Bailey likewise irritates the Democratic voting base by embracing the former president and the National Rifle Association, decrying abortion and never passing a chance to bring religion into the conversation.

I’m not making value judgments on either approach – goodness knows there’s no shortage of that, especially online – just observing the only thing that’s really changed since the primary is there’s now only one Republican atop the ticket and Pritzker’s ads are openly anti-Bailey instead of subtly supportive of his preferred opponent.

Are there readers who haven’t decided? I’d love to hear from anyone willing to share what questions linger or which factors might prove decisive. Downballot races offer more intrigue, but none has as much bearing on Illinois’ future.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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August 23, 2022 at 05:03AM

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