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37 Days to Election Day: Illinois

The political news out of Illinois will be in the House races and the news, quite frankly, is not good for the Republican Party. First, this is Obama’s home base and there is no doubt that he will win the state’s 20 electoral votes.

As if that is not bad enough, Democrats controlled the redistricting process which was complicated by the fact that the state lost a seat in the House as a result of the 2010 census. That allowed the legislature to expand the boundaries of existing districts, especially in the heavily populated northeastern part of the state- specifically the Chicago area- into more traditionally conservative/Republican territory while retaining the generally favorable advantage to the Democratic incumbents. This served to weaken the Republican districts in most cases.

The current delegation favors Republicans 11-8. That will not be the case come November 7th. Bobby Rush is reassured of victory in the First while Jesse Jackson, Jr., having survived a primary challenge from former 11th District representative Debbie Halvorson and a stint in rehab for what exactly we don’t know, is the prohibitive favorite in the Second. Dan Lipinski, the Democratic incumbent, is safe in the Third. There is some controversy here as there is some evidence that Lipinski’s office may have interfered in the state’s redistricting process. In the 4th, Luis Guitierrez will not even face any Republican competition. Mike Quigley is safe in the 5th and Republican Pete Roskam appears safe in the 6th District.

In the 7th, Danny Davis, the incumbent Democrat with close ties to socialists in the United States, will win again against Rita Zak who has no experience other than chairing the losing candidate’s campaign against Davis in 2010. Her entire campaign centers around running against a corrupt political machine. Well, then…that could be said of any congressional district in the Chicago area and it is doubtful that line of attack will win Zak an election. In the 8th, Republican incumbent Joe Walsh faces a huge challenge against Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth who only enhanced her image with her appearance at the DNC convention in North Carolina. This is her second run for Congress having lost in 2010 to Pete Roskam. Since, she has served as head of veteran affairs in Washington in the Obama Administration. Redistricting, an enhanced profile, superior fundraising and a weaker opponent this time out make a Duckworth victory likely. Meanwhile, damn well near socialist Democratic incumbent Jan Schakowsky will carry the 9th.

In the 10th, incumbent Republican Robert Dold won in 2010 and has distinguished himself from other Illinois Republicans as being more moderate in his political outlook and votes. He is also a pro-choice Republican. His opponent will benefit from redistricting despite his lack of political experience- Brad Schneider. This race will be closely watched and if Dold should somehow win reelection, then the news out of Illinois will not be that bad. Although Dold leads in the fundraising race, it is likely he will lose in the general election.

In the 11th district, Judy Biggert moves over from the 13th and will face former 14th district representative Bill Foster in another battle of Illinois heavyweights. The new 11th comprises only half of her old district, but still sweeps through enough of her base in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Considering herself a moderate Republican, she has recently advanced several housing reforms in Congress while stating it is important “that our party not be taken over by the ultraconservatives.” Bill Foster has been championing himself an ally of Obama. Although he helped push through the stimulus in 2009, he eventually voted against it then waited for the last day to support Obamacare. This race is a pure toss up as they are even in fundraising also.

Finally some good news for the GOP- maybe- out of Illinois. Democratic incumbent Jerry Costello is retiring creating an open race. It looked like a sure retention as Brad Harriman won the Democratic primary, but then withdrew due to health reasons. He was replaced by William Enyart who received the backing of Democratic party leaders in the counties in the district. This is his first attempt at elected office. Still, Republicans believe they have a chance with lumber company executive Jason Plummer. The 12th runs from the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis into depressed, but increasingly conservative territory. For Plummer to take the district, it would be historical since only two Democrats have held this seat since World War II. Costello’s recent winning margins have never been with less than 60% of the vote. At this point, given Enyart’s late entry and Plummer’s fundraising advantage, I would give it to Plummer at this point.

In the 13th District, Tim Johnson announced his retirement after the primary (he is a Republican incumbent). Rodney Davis will run for the GOP and David Gill for the Democrats. Davis is a close political ally of 15th District Republican incumbent John Shimkus. Davis ran unsuccessfully against Johnson in 2004, 2006 and 2010 so he is familiar with the district. This will be another close race and in terms of fundraising, they are even. Still, one would have to side with Davis here. Randy Hultgren and John Shimkus, both Republican incumbents, are safe in the 14th and 15th respectively as is Adam Kinzinger in the 16th who moved over from the 11th and defeated the current Republican incumbent Dan Manzullo in a Republican-versus-Republican incumbent match up.

In the 17th District, Republican incumbent Bobby Schilling won with 52% of the vote in 2010. The 17th covers a large swath of western Illinois and Schilling is the first Republican to win the seat in nearly 30 years. Schilling voted against a bill that would have funded a Chicago to Iowa City rail line in this heavily industrial district much to the chagrin of his constituents. His opponent, East Moline alderwoman Cheri Bustos, is portraying Schilling as a Republican extremist and her sole plank is equitable health care for all. She has received some important endorsements, mainly Dick Durbin. Thus far, she kept even with Schilling in terms of fundraising. It would appear at this juncture that Schilling is destined to be a one-term Congressman. Finally, in the 18th, incumbent Republican Aaron Schock is considered safe for reelection as this is perhaps the most conservative and reliably Republican district in Illinois.

The lone question on the ballot would require a three-fifths vote by any political body to increase the benefits of their public employees. This is considered an effort to reign in increasing costs of public worker union benefits by holding increases to a higher standard for approval. In reality, this is merely an advisory question which the legislature will likely not heed. Governor Quinn convened a special session to solve the underfunded state pension system. Nothing came of that session. The problem is that the unions in Illinois control the Democratic Party in Illinois.

In conclusion: Obama takes their 20 electoral votes easily. The current delegation in the House is 11-8 Republican. After Election Day, it will most likely be 11-7 for the Democrats. This represents the state with the biggest losses for the Republicans.

Running totals thus far: Obama leads in the electoral vote count 108-36 while the Senate remains tied 14-14. In the House, Democrats lead 65-46 in seats.

Next: Nebraska

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