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Miller: Rauner not gaining ground in GOP race

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(AP file photo)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

In mid-August, near the end of his summertime TV advertising blitz, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner scored 14 percent in a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of likely GOP primary voters.

That was up a tick from the 12 percent he got in a June 20 poll by the same firm. His campaign has run some radio ads since then and sent out some direct mail, but Rauner has been mostly absent from TV for a few months or so.

The absence doesn’t appear to have hurt him all that much. According to a poll taken Thursday, Rauner is at 11 percent. So, while he did slide back a bit, he’s still within the same polling range that he’s been trading in for months. Not to say that’s good news. It isn’t.

Last week Rauner let it be known that he is spending a half-million dollars of his own money to support a fresh round of TV ads. Ironically enough, he’s personally spending a fortune on an expensive TV spot that tries to show he’s just a regular guy by featuring a cheap watch that he supposedly favors. The folksy ad makes no mention of his home in Winnetka, his big spread in Montana, or his Chicago lakefront condo, of course.

Anyway, the question now is whether the wealthy retired financial wizard with close ties to Chicago’s last two Democratic mayors finally can begin to rise to the next plateau among Republican primary voters. Despite raising $3 million, he has yet to rise above third place in the four-man primary, and this latest poll showed him in last place.

State Sen. Bill Brady continues to maintain his lead over the rest of the pack, according to the poll of 1,191 likely GOP voters. Brady scored 25 percent, to Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s 18 percent and state Sen. Kirk Dillard’s 14 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 2.94 percent.

“This poll parallels tracking polls we’ve been conducting in the Republican governor’s race,” We Ask America pollster Gregg Durham said. “While Brady and Rutherford continue to stay a step ahead of Rauner and Dillard, the evidence points more to the top two contenders’ name recognition advantage than anything else.”

The overall numbers have moved so little that it’s difficult to say whether there’s much of a pattern here. However, Dillard appears to be doing significantly better in the collar counties, coming in first place with 24 percent in last week’s poll versus 17 percent in August (second place behind Rauner) and 13 percent in June.

And as has we’ve seen since at least June, Rauner still is doing much better with men than with women, perhaps because his ads so far have relied on “manly” images of him wearing a high-end barn jacket. There’s a seven-point spread between his support among men (14 percent) and his backing among women (7 percent). That’s a larger spread than everyone else’s, but, then again, women are significantly more undecided as a whole than men (37 versus 28).

Keep in mind, though, that it’s still early, despite it feeling like this campaign already has been going on forever. Even though he’s raised and spent almost no money, 2010 victor Brady actually scored four points higher than he did in August. Rutherford has raised some cash, but has spent almost no money as well, and last week’s polling shows him pretty much exactly where he was in August. Dillard has moved into third place, and his numbers have risen five points, but when it’s this early in a contest, that could just be statistical noise. Far and away, the “real” first-place finisher, as in all earlier polls, is “Undecided,” at 33 percent.

Meanwhile, former Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross is leading DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan for state treasurer, 29-18, in that same Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of Republican primary voters.

Fifty-four percent, however, remain undecided, about the same as in June, when the firm found that 56 percent were unsure of their choice.

Cross’ people have to be somewhat relieved by these numbers. They’re polling higher than any Republican gubernatorial candidate just days after Cross received a ton of press for voting for a gay marriage bill.

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

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