Giannoulias, Kirk Remain Deadlocked in Illinois

Posted by Kyle Adams, Real Clear Politics

In one of the most competitive Senate races this year, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk remain locked in a heated battle for President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois.

Giannoulias and Kirk, both of whom have been dogged throughout the campaign by controversy, are tied at 34 percent in a new Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll, while more than one in five voters remain undecided. Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones earns the support of 6 percent of voters, and Libertarian Party candidate Mike Labno earns 3 percent.

Giannoulias, the state’s treasurer, continues to suffer politically as a result of his association with his family’s failed Broadway Bank, which was shut down by the FDIC earlier this year and made $20 million in loans to convicted felons. Giannoulias served as senior loan officer for the bank but denies involvement in the controversial loans, some of which occurred after he departed the bank to run for treasurer. Still, he faces an uphill battle with voters. Twenty-eight percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him while only 22 percent have a favorable opinion.

Kirk, a five term Congressman from the 10th district, has work of his own to do. A moderate Republican who supported the “cap and trade” energy bill, Kirk has yet to shore up support among conservative voters – 36 percent of whom say they have no opinion on the candidate. Additionally, Kirk has faced a wave of criticism for embellishing his military record and biography. Still, bolstered in a favorable year for Republicans, Kirk leads Giannoulias 34-23 among independent voters. He also benefits from a four-to-one cash-on-hand advantage over Giannoulias.

An interesting quirk of this race is that the winner will likely be headed to Washington immediately following election day. A court ruled that the state should have held a special election to fill Obama’s seat (then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich instead appointed Roland Burris). Therefore, voters will vote for the same candidates twice on the November ballot — once to fill the remainder of Burris’ term and again for the full six-year Senate term. A Kirk win would provide Republicans with a bulwark against any actions a rumored lame-duck session of Congress may try to take.

The Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV survey of 600 registered likely voters was conducted August 28 through Wednesday. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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