A new poll from our friends at WGN-TV released a new poll in the Chicago Mayor’s race yesterday showing centrist Democrat Paul Vallas leading progressive Democrat Brandon Johnson by about five points with just a week to go before Chicago’s runoff election.
The five point lead itself isn’t indicative of the belief I have that Vallas will win, they’re running two different campaigns that show up differently in the polls. (GOP operative Collin Corbett puts it well: Vallas is running a persuasion campaign and Johnson is running a turnout campaign.)
But, if you dig into some of the questions WGN and Emerson College asked voters, you see why Vallas is the decided favorite down the stretch.
According to WGN’s poll, Vallas is receiving 60% of the white vote and 57% of the Hispanic vote. (Latino voters, by the way, are almost even with African Americans in Chicago’s population.) That’s a coalition that is hard to beat, even if Johnson cleans house among African American voters. Johnson has 55% of African American support, and Vallas has made end roads with top Black leaders, earning endorsements from former Secretary of State Jesse White, former Congressman Bobby Rush, businessman Willie Wilson, and at least seven current or former Black Aldermen.
But what benefits a moderate candidate with a crime message like Vallas are the questions voters responded to on issues.
The poll showed 52% of voters listed crime as their number one issue (which is obvious to most of us paying attention to things in the city right now, but apparently not to people that think a “defund the police” candidate is the answer). 61% of respondents say they believe there is more crime in Chicago today than a year ago. 54% say they trust Vallas more to handle crime in Chicago.
Vallas has done enough to quell concerns about his silly unforced errors cozying up a little too closely to some right wing weirdos like Awake Illinois and the gadfly hosts of a marginal Chicago talk radio station. Dick Durbin isn’t endorsing a Trumper, guys.
While he probably should have put this race away by now, with his establishment support and gobs of money, Vallas is still in the catbird’s seat with seven days to go.
Obviously, the Johnson people are hoping to excite young and super-progressive turnout. That didn’t so much work in the first round in 2019, where there wasn’t a high quality progressive candidate, and everyone sort of coalesced around Lori Lightfoot in the runoff.
While its certainly possible the Johnson campaign has tens of thousands of young progressive voters out there that aren’t showing up in polls and models, but there isn’t really a track record of that in citywide races in recent years. (Chuy Garcia’s 2015 run against Rahm Emanuel is the most successful in a runoff in some time and he only got up to 44%.)
In the end, this is a race between practicality and pipe dreams. Vallas is running on the two things that really matter: crime and city finances. Johnson is trying to run on a progressive utopia, but all people are seeing is the constant backtracking on the “defund the police” statements he has previously associated with.
Vallas has the message, Vallas has the money, Vallas has the establishment support, Vallas has the momentum.
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March 28, 2023 at 05:00PM