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Miller: Democrats, Republicans have image problem in Illinois

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady resigned last week just as a new statewide poll showed big trouble for his political party’s brand.

Brady had been under pressure to resign ever since the disastrous 2012 elections. The pressure increased publicly after Brady announced his support for a gay marriage bill. Multiple attempts to oust Brady were unsuccessful.

The way forward is unclear, to say the least. Some party leaders have a list of more than 25 people to consider. This could easily turn out to be a total mess.

And this all comes at a particularly bad time for the GOP. A new Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll found that 52 percent of likely Illinois voters have a negative view of the Republican Party. Only 25 percent have a positive view, while 24 percent were neutral.

According to the poll of 1,036 likely voters taken May 6, 54 percent of women have a negative view of the GOP (only 24 percent positive), while 48 percent of men have a negative view (only 26 percent positive). The poll has a margin of error of plus-minus 3 percent.

And a mere 59 percent of self-identified Republicans have a positive view of the GOP, while 16 percent have a negative view and 25 percent are neutral – a combined 41 percent unpositive. Not good.

Perhaps more importantly, only 18 percent of independents have a positive view of the Republican Party, while 50 percent have a negative view.

So, it’s somewhat of a miracle that Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is still polling as well as she is. According to the survey, Topinka leads Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, 45-38. A total of 24 percent of the calls were made to cellphones.

Simon will likely run for attorney general if Lisa Madigan steps up to run for governor, but she has said she is eyeing the comptroller’s race as well. Simon is the highest profile Democrat to consider a bid against Topinka, so this may be a high water mark for the Democrats. Topinka won her last race by 13 points in a very good year for the GOP.

Topinka leads among independents by 12 big and important points. Her lead also pretty much matches Madigan’s lead over Dan Rutherford and Aaron Schock in a somewhat recent Public Policy Polling survey. So, she’s doing quite well considering the serious headwinds. Topinka and Simon are essentially tied among women, but Topinka has a 53-34 lead among men.

But the news isn’t all that great for Democrats, either.

A Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,057 likely Illinois voters taken Wednesday showed that 42 percent have a negative view of the Democratic Party while just 36 percent have a positive view. That’s not as bad as the GOP numbers, but it is “certainly an indictment of the political landscape,” as my pollster told me. The poll’s margin of error is plus-minus 3 percent.

According to the poll, the Democratic Party is viewed positively by a plurality of women, 43-37, and negatively by men, 50-28, compared to the poll about the GOP which showed that women and men viewed the Republican Party in a negative light.

Independents tend to lean more conservative because so many of them are former Republicans who no longer want to be identified with the party. So, the GOP has to do well with them to win. There are far more Democrats in this state than Republicans, but they aren’t a majority and must still be competitive with independents.

And according to that poll, the Democrats aren’t doing so well with independents right now. A strong majority of independents, 56 percent, viewed the Democratic Party negatively, which is six points worse than the Republicans fared. Eighteen percent – the same result as the GOP – viewed the party positively.

Sixty-seven percent of Democrats viewed their party in a positive light, compared to the 59 percent of Republicans who viewed their party positively.

The Democrats clearly have an advantage with their base, but it’s still not all that wonderful.

Just one region, Chicago, finds a majority positive view of the Democratic Party, with 56 percent positive and 23 percent negative. A 39-29 plurality of suburban Cook County voters view the Democratic Party in a positive light, while a 52-33 majority of collar county voters and a 56-24 majority of downstaters have a negative view of the Dems.

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

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