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National Editorials & Columns

Miller: Rauner leading in race for governor

A new Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll found Republican Bruce Rauner leading Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, 51-39. That’s pretty much the same margin the pollster found for another client a month ago.

The poll of 940 likely voters was taken July 8 and has a margin of error of ± 3.2 percent. Thirty percent of the calls were made to mobile phones.

Quinn has repeatedly blasted Rauner for using complicated loopholes to avoid some taxes. I wanted to test the issue.

“Republican Bruce Rauner’s tax returns for 2010 and 2011 show that despite making around $55 million, he was not required to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes,” respondents were told.

Six percent said that made them less likely to vote for Rauner. Twenty percent said it made no difference either way and another 20 percent said it made them more likely to vote for the candidate.

A dangerously-high 66 percent of women said the tax issue made them less likely to vote for the candidate, compared to a 49 percent plurality of men. Twenty-seven percent of men said the news actually made them more likely to vote for Rauner, compared to 23 percent who said it made no difference.

That’s probably because Rauner is doing much better with men than women, despite running a zillion TV ads prominently featuring women. While he leads Quinn 60-33 among men, his female lead is just 3 points, 46-43. Quinn will surely put lots of focus there.

The poll shows Rauner is doing as well in Chicago as Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk did in his 2010 statewide victory, getting 20.5 percent to Kirk’s 19.5 percent. Quinn absolutely has to keep Rauner away from that 20 percent number or he’s toast. And the best way to do that is through negative TV ads.

The tax issue works very well in the city, with 73 percent saying they’d be less likely to vote for Rauner. However, 27 percent said it either didn’t matter (14 percent) or made them more likely to vote for Rauner (13 percent).

The poll also shows Quinn cratering in suburban Cook, with Rauner leading that traditionally Democratic stronghold, 50-41. Quinn won the region by 13 points four years ago, and Republican Mark Kirk lost it by 9 points. The tax issue made 59 percent of suburban Cook voters less likely to cast a ballot for Rauner.

Quinn is getting pounded in downstate, losing the region 64-25, but the tax issue works fairly well against Rauner, with 59 percent of downstaters saying it made them less likely to vote for the Republican. The issue works less well in the wealthier collar counties, however. Rauner leads Quinn, 58-36, in the collars and voters were about evenly split on the tax issue, with 51 percent saying it made them less likely to vote for him, and 49 percent saying it either made no difference (23 percent) or made them more likely to vote for him (29 percent).

Quinn also has demanded that Rauner release his 2013 tax returns, which Rauner has not yet filed. Rauner responded last week by saying he would release the returns in due time and then pivoted to say: “Pat Quinn needs to release all documents and emails pertaining to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.”

As it turns out, the federal investigation into Quinn’s now infamous anti-violence program is just as bad for Quinn as Rauner’s tax situation is for the challenger.

“It was recently reported that a program implemented by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is under federal investigation for misuse of government funds,” respondents were told.

Sixty percent said that made them less likely to vote for Quinn, with 19 percent saying it made no difference and 21 percent saying it made them more likely to vote for him.

Considering Rauner’s big lead among men, the impact of the federal probe works “better” with men than women, with 64 percent of men saying it makes them less likely to vote for Quinn versus 57 percent of women.

The attack works best among Downstaters, with a dangerously high 74 percent saying the investigation makes them less likely to vote for the governor. Any issue polling above 70 percent can be expected to “move” voters on election day.

The revelation worked least well in Chicago, where Quinn’s support is strongest. Just 33 percent said it made them less likely to vote for Quinn, while 30 percent said it made no difference and 39 percent said it actually made them more likely to vote for the guy.

So, the two most recent and prominent campaign issues basically cancel each other out, which is good news for Rauner because he’s sitting on such a big lead.

• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

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