Wednesday, August 14, 2013

KEY TO 2014 ILLINOIS GOP CONGRESSIONAL COMEBACK


Editorial Note: A guest editorial by my good friend Russ Stewart, who has been writing about elections for over 30 years and has an excellent track record in predicting outcomes. Only the 10th Congressional  District portion of his article is reprinted below. You can read his entire article here.

ANALYSIS & OPINION BY RUSS STEWART

There is an old movie called "Field of Dreams," about building a baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield. "If you build it, they will come," meaning the ghosts of baseball past.

That's the obverse of Illinois Republicans' philosophy in the developing 2014 congressional elections, which is: If it's a mid-term with Barack Obama in the White House, the Democratic base will not come out. And if you contest Democratic incumbents Brad Schneider (10th), Bill Foster (11th), Cheri Bustos (17th), and Bill Enyart (12th), a victory is plausible, as 2014 could be another 2010.

Call it the Obama slump, or, more aptly, Obama fatigue: Far fewer Democrats voted in 2010 than in 2008. As detailed in the adjoining chart, the Democratic vote in those four districts declined by 327,582 between 2008 and 2010, and the total turnout plunged by 323,894. That, astonishingly, means that all the 2008 Republican McCain voters came out in 2010, but of the 1,129,494 turnout in those four districts in 2008, almost a third of the 2008 Obama Democrats didn't vote in 2010.

If that is replicated in 2014, with 300,000 - plus Democrats missing-in-action, it will be a very good year for the Republicans.

In 2008, Democrats had a 12-7 majority in Illinois' congressional delegation. In 2010, Republicans knocked off Democratic incumbents Melissa Bean (8th), Bill Foster (14th), Phil Hare (17th) and Debbie Halvorson (11th) and easily kept Mark Kirk's (R) North Shore 10th District seat. That gave the  Republicans an 11-8 delegation majority.

In 2011, the Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature remapped the districts, reconfigured the existing 8th, 10th, 13th and 17th district, and made difficult, if not impossible, the re-election prospects of Republican incumbents Joe Walsh (R-8), Bob Dold (R-10), Judy Biggert (R-13), who was put in the new 11th District with Foster, and Bobby Shilling (17th). All four lost in 2012, and the state lost one seat due to population decline, with two Republican districts combined. That gave the Democrats a 12-6 delegation majority.

The 2012 Democratic congressional vote, aided by Obama atop the ticket, bounced back to near the 2008 level. Schneider beat Dold by a minuscule 2,518 votes: Bustos beat Shilling by 18,259 votes; Foster beat Biggert by 38,850 votes; Tammy Duckworth beat Walsh by 20,938 votes. In the open Champaign-Urbana-Decatur seat, Republican Rodney Davis squeaked out a 1,587-vote win.

In 2014, all districts except Duckworth's are in play. Republican recruitment has been noteworthy. Dold and Shilling are attempting comebacks, and well-known state representatives Mike Bost and Darlene Senger are running against, respectively, Enyart and Foster. If the 2014 Democratic vote collapses by one-third, as it did in 2010, then Schneider, Foster, Bustos and Enyart are in serious jeopardy. Only Duckworth, who has no credible looming Republican opposition, is safe.

Here's an analysis:

10th District: The Democrats' 2011 remap excised the Wheeling-Palatine Republican area from the district, and added Democratic Waukegan and Zion, making Lake County dominant over Cook County. In 2008, when Kirk - now U.S. Senator - was re-elected, turnout was 291,258, and Kirk won 153,082-138,176, a margin of 14,906 over Democrat Dan Seals. Seals lost in 2006 by 107,929-94,278, in a 202,207 turnout.

Of that 2008 vote, 161,214 were cast in Cook County, and 130,044 in Lake County. Kirk won Cook by 16,498 votes, and Seals won Lake by 1,592. In 2010, turnout dropped to 215,231, 76,000 less than 2008; Dold won by 4,651 votes over Seals, carrying Cook County by 10,321 vote, but losing Lake County by 5,670 votes. In 2010, Dold had 109,941 votes, 43,141 fewer than Kirk in 2008; Seals had 105,290 votes, 32,886 fewer than 2008. Both parties' vote was down by 30 percent, but Republicans maintained a slight districtwide edge.

In 2012, the remap was decisive. Only Northfield, New Trier and parts of Maine and Wheeling townships remained in the Cook County portion of the district, now casting just 40 percent of the total district vote. Obama won Lake County with 57.1 percent, and Schneider with just 50.5 percent, buoyed by 72.8 percent in Waukegan and 63.4 percent in Zion townships. Obama won the Cook County part of the 10th District with 58.6 percent, and Schneider got 51.1 percent. 

In a recruitment coup, Republicans enticed Dold to run again in 2014. The most recent Federal Election Commission filings indicate that Dold raised an impressive $546,000 through June 30, with cash-on-hand of $616,000; Schneider, a loyal Obama vote, raised $387,000 and had $531,000 on-hand. The 2014 financial field is level.

"It will be all about brand and enthusiasm,: said one Lake County Democratic activist, who acknowledged that Schneider is a competent but colorless congressman. "He hasn't solidified himself." Turnout was 73.7 percent in 2008, collapsed to 51.3 percent in 2010, and revived to 70.2 percent in 2012.

Outlook: Each side will spend $4 million. Without Obama atop the ticket, turnout will drop to 215,000. Minimal negative baggage attaches to Dold and Schneider, so the negativity will attach to Obama. His popularity and credibility in October 2014 will be crucial. If there's an anti-Obama trend, Schneider loses.

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