Friday, October 28, 2005

Geography is Destiny

Blago's poor polling numbers are not the boon for the GOP that they may seem. The racial and gender divide that they evidence only further confirms negative stereotypes about "traditional" Republican voters(funny how it seems that the stereotypes are never about the Democratic voters). The governor's approval rating was 45% among female voters, and only 37% among males. It was 59% and 53% among blacks and Hispanic voters; only 35% among whites. The divide didn't end there because it was plainly, well, partisan. Admittedly, the 40% of Democrats who disapprove of his performance can't be heartening to the governor, particularly since approval ratings(from Democrats, 55%) tend to overestimate performance at the polls, but are not surprising for any officeholder at the third year slump.

Both downstate voters and those in the collar counties gave him low marks, in roughly equal numbers. (His approval rating 35% in the suburbs and 32% south of route 80, in contrast to just over 50% in Cook County.) Considering that it was downstate voters who are often credited, if any credit is due, with his 2002 primary victory(in which he carried 56% of the non-metro vote), the governor's standing there has diminished rapidly. But, in the absence of a primary challenger, much of this animus will go unnoticed. The fundraising prowess possessed by the governor enables him to effectively circumvent the usual political obstacles that would have stopped a more ordinary candidate long before now. However, one must concede that the geography factor cannot be overestimated. In 2002, Jim Ryan's lackluster Chicago showing may have been what cost him the election. (He carried only 12%; his like named would be predecessor had carried a third.) A more Chicago-centric agenda is bound to be on the minds of any of this cycle's GOP gubernatorial candidates, all of whom reside in Chicago or the collar counties. Of course, so did Ryan. With the exception of Rauschenburger and his anti-Chicago jeremiads, none of the contenders seem to be looking to reprise the map politics that were played last time. And, for the GOP, that's a good thing.

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