The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story yesterday which asked the provocative question, "Is Illinois Turning Purple?" The article noted the following:
• Obama's job-approval rating in Illinois, according to a Chicago Tribune poll taken earlier this month, hovers just over the halfway mark, at 51 percent — still well above some of the numbers he's seeing nationally, but more than 10 points down from the support he enjoyed here two years ago.
• The race for Obama's open U.S. Senate seat has been neck-and-neck for months, with the Republican, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, edging in polls over Democratic state treasurer and Obama protégé Alexi Giannoulias.
• Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a fixture in and around progressive Illinois politics since the 1970s, is badly trailing his conservative GOP challenger, state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, despite the fact that Brady won his party's crowded February primary with just one-fifth of Republican votes. The latest Rasmussen Reports poll has Brady up 50 percent to 37 percent.
• The Democrats' commanding majority in the congressional delegation might, according to the latest polls, be whittled down to just one seat in November, with Democrats all but assured of losing ground in the Legislature as well.
Although this evidence is compelling, it is certainly too soon to go so far as to say that the state is "turning purple." After all, many states this year (such as Wisconsin) are polling far more red than usual due to the national mood, which is tilting heavily Republican. Therefore, the most reasonable conclusion to draw is that the potential boatracing facing the Democrats in Illinois is a one-time aberration. Heck, at this point, the Democrats haven't even lost anything in Illinois yet.
You know what might change that? A constant stream of stories reminding everyone in the State, in horribly graphic ways, that everyone in the State Democrat hierarchy is crooked and quite possibly associated with the mob and/or hookers. Like, say, this one (content warning) detailing how Jesse Jackson attempted to buy Barack Obama's Senate seat from Rod Blagojevich with $6 million dollars and the services of an attractive blonde who may or may not be a hooker. I mean, you get the feeling that people who live in Illinois are by this point sort of jaded about political corruption but stories like this one have a way of sticking in people's minds for a couple months, especially when they are on the way to the voting booth.
Now, you might think that this sort of tarring-by-association isn't fair to poor Alexi Giannoulias, apparently had nothing to do with the entire sordid affair surrounding Barack Obama's Senate seat. Fair enough. a pretty simple way for Mr. Giannoulias to get around this problem is to stop ducking the press on the campaign trail so they can cover his campaign independent of the whole mess. Of course, the end result of that strategy would be having to answer questions about Giannoulias's own ties to the mob, so maybe he's made a calculated risk that being unfairly associated with bribery and hookers is a better strategy in the long run.
And folks, when Democrats are making these sorts of strategic calculations, the suggestion that a state like Illinois is turning purple doesn't seem so ludicrous after all.