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Blog Home Page --> House -- Illinois -- 10

IL 10: Kirk +6

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk is winning newspaper endorsements and leading in most polls we've seen. Now, he's up in a Democratic survey. The Bennett Petts & Normington poll for Progress Illinois surveyed 400 likely voters 10/15-16 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Kirk and 2006 nominee Dan Seals were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Kirk.....47 / 15 / 92 / 44 / 49 / 45
Seals....41 / 71 / 3 / 37 / 39 / 43

Obama....56
McCain...35

Kirk has a good job approval rating of 49% excellent or good and just 38% fair or poor. And though Obama looks like he'll win big in the northern suburban district, Kirk's 50% favorable rating and just 21% unfavorable rating could help him survive.

IL 10: Kirk (R) +6

How long will Barack Obama's coattails extend? Answer that question and you'll know if Mark Kirk will be back to Congress. A new poll conducted by Research 2000 for DailyKos suggests Kirk is in trouble, but still leads his Democratic opponent. The poll, conducted 9/30-10/1, tested 400 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Kirk and 2006 opponent Dan Seals were tested among a sample made up of 35% Democrats, 29% Republicans and 39% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Kirk.....44 / 12 / 81 / 45 / 47 / 41
Seals....38 / 70 / 5 / 34 / 36 / 40

Obama....50 / 83 / 10 / 51 / 46 / 54
McCain...38 / 7 / 78 / 36 / 43 / 33

Kirk (45%) and Seals (43%) have relatively similar favorable ratings, but Kirk's unfavorables (40%) are higher than Seals' (28%), likely thanks to attack ads both Seals and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have run. And Seals will have more ads to run; his campaign announced today it had raised over $700,000 last quarter.

Still, Kirk has a lead despite Obama's strong performance in the district. If Democrats can't knock him off in their own nominee's home state in such a favorable year, they may stop trying in the future.

IL 10: Kirk (R) Leads, Seals On Air

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk represents one of the most Democratic districts of any Republican in Congress, but he knows how to stay popular. A new poll for Kirk's campaign shows a rematch between Kirk and his 2006 opponent may end up being a safer race than the last time out, when Kirk won by seven points.

The poll, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 300 likely voters between 9/10-11 for a margin of error of +/- 5.6%. Kirk and 2006 Democratic nominee Dan Seals were tested among a sample made up of 34% Democrats, 35% Republicans and 31% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
Kirk........51 (-2 from last, 6/9)
Seals.......29 (-3)

Kirk has good favorable ratings; 63% of respondents said they see him favorably, while just 20% view him unfavorably. That's higher even than Barack Obama's favorable rating. Voters in the district see the home-state senator favorably by a 59% to 32% margin.

Seals is known by far fewer voters, as just 36% say they see him favorably and 15% view him unfavorably. Both Kirk's and Seals' images could change soon, though, as Seals begins running his second ad of his campaign.

We haven't seen a lot of candidates criticizing their opponents direct to camera this cycle, but Seals takes a shot in his new spot, in which he hits Kirk for his ties to the Bush Administration. "Sometimes you have to have the courage to say no," Seals says. "Mark Kirk has been there for George Bush. He helped Bush write the language that sent our troops to the war in Iraq."

While it's rare to have a contrast ad featuring one candidate talking about another, running advertisements in the Chicago media market isn't cheap. Seals' campaign may have decided to get the double benefit of introducing their candidate while taking down the other guy. Then again, trailing by the margin by which Seals trails could also call for a risk here or there.

Kirk Looks Strong

There are fewer incumbents who better fit the description of a paranoid incumbent than Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk. The moderate whose district sits just north of Chicago won his first term with just 51%, and after two easier elections won a fourth term in 2006 with just 53% of the vote. This year, a new poll for his campaign shows, Kirk leads his 2006 opponent by a much wider margin.

The poll, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for Kirk's campaign, surveyed 300 likely voters on 6/9 for a margin of error of +/- 5.6%. Kirk and advertising executive Dan Seals were tested among a sample that included 35% Democratic respondents, 33% Republican respondents and 32% independents or others.

General Election Matchup
Kirk...........53 (+3 from last, 3/08)
Seals........32 (+3)

A one-day poll is not a standard survey length, and Democrats will make an issue out of the numbers. Most pollsters will conduct their surveys over multiple days to ensure that one news story or event doesn't weigh too heavily on the sample's mind. Too, the sample size is relatively small.

But Kirk's lead is easily outside the margin of error, and his favorable rating is a strong 67% to 16%. Seals' approval rating is 39% compared with 16% who see him unfavorably, a good ratio for a challenger, though he will have to bring up his name identification before he closes the gap with Kirk.

A moderate, Kirk is not likely to be cast as in lock step with Congressional Republicans or President Bush. And though John Kerry and Al Gore won the district in both 2000 and 2004, Kirk has been on the ballot with hometown favorite Barack Obama before, winning 64% of the vote when Kerry beat Bush by a 53%-47% margin in the district.

Still, Democrats are optimistic that they will eventually take the district back. Seals beat out a former Clinton Administration official in the Democratic primary in February, but if he can't knock off Kirk this time around, it may be the last time Seals makes a bid for Congress.

Kirk Faces Tough Fight

Four-term Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, one of the most moderate members of the GOP caucus, faces a repeat of what proved to be a surprisingly difficult challenge from 2006 when he managed just a six-point victory. Vote ratings place Kirk virtually in the middle of the House on economic, social and foreign policy issues, and is a prominent member of the centrist Tuesday Group and the Suburban Agenda Caucus, which sought to protect some of the most vulnerable Republicans last cycle.

Kirk's moderation has served him well in his district, which runs north of Chicago along Lake Michigan and close to the Wisconsin border. He is one of the few Republicans to represent a district President Bush lost not once but twice. Still, two years ago, marketing executive Dan Seals scored 47% of the vote to Kirk's 53%, the closest race the incumbent faced since his initial bid in 2000.

After Seals easily took care of former White House aide Jay Footlik in the February 5 primary, his campaign released a poll showing what could be another tight race. The poll, conducted by Democratic firm Garin-Hart-Yang between 2/7-8, surveyed 400 likely voters and tested Kirk and Seals.

General Election Matchup
Kirk 46
Seals 39

Seals keeps the Republican under the crucial 50% mark, but it's still an uphill battle for the Democrat. Kirk survived in 2006 because he is what NRCC chair Tom Cole refers to as a paranoid incumbent, one smart enough to see a difficult battle approach and to over-prepare in any case. Before the primary, Seals held about $625,000 in cash reserves, while Kirk had close to $1.8 million on hand. Making Seals' chances better, the DCCC did not target the seat last time around, though they are likely to do so this time.

Kirk outspent Seals almost two-to-one in 2006. But John Kerry won the district by a six-point margin and Al Gore by four points. While Kirk has survived tight races before, he may be the last Republican to hold the district for a long time. Whether his abdication comes as his own choice or when voters kick him out will depend on the incumbent's ability to survive what could be another terrible landscape for Republicans.