Midterm Elections: Durbin Narrowly Leads Oberweis in Sun-Times Poll - NBC Chicago
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Midterm Elections: Durbin Narrowly Leads Oberweis in Sun-Times Poll

Illinois' sleepy Senate race is heating up as November's election looms ahead



    U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat seeking a fourth term in office, has a slight lead over Republican challenger Jim Oberweis, according to a new Chicago Sun-Times/We Ask America poll.

    Asked whom they'd vote for if the U.S. Senate election were held now, 47.8 percent of 1,054 poll-takers backed Durbin while 40.5 percent chose Oberweis. The seven-point gap, as narrow as it's been, represents growing support for the GOP dairy magnate, who recently went negative in his campaign to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

    Meanwhile, Libertarian candidate Sharon Hansen snagged 4.1 percent of the vote. Nearly 8 percent were undecided on the three options.

    Responding to the results, Durbin spokesman Ron Holmes tells Ward Room: "Our internal numbers show a larger gap; however, as we approach Election Day we're going to keep working hard to share Sen. Durbin's message of a fair shot for everyday Illinoisans. Despite the flaws of the Sun-Times poll, one thing is clear: perennial candidate Jim Oberweis is significantly behind in the polls because of his radical tea party agenda."

    Oberweis, a state senator from west suburban Chicago, has previously staged unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate (wherein Durbin is the second-most powerful Democrat) in the early aughties followed by failed campaigns for Illinois governor and U.S. representative in 2006 and 2008, respectively. He was elected to his Springfield post in 2012.

    Durbin led Oberweis by double digits in polling earlier this year but the gap has since tightened, with a July New York Times survey showing Oberweis trailing Durbin by eight percentage points. The Paper of Record predicted a slim GOP victory in the Senate, which is currently led by Democrats 55-45.

    Here in Illinois, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican rival Bruce Rauner are engaged in a close race for Springfield's highest office that has pollsters increasingly tipping the balance of November's election toward Rauner. The embattled Quinn is fending off a formidable campaign by the Winnetka venture capitalist amid the unfolding patronage scandal at the Illinois Department of Transportation and state and federal probes into his botched anti-violence program.

    Oberweis, who may well be benefitting from Rauner's momentum, commissioned a poll of his own and released the results Tuesday, touting a six-point margin. He's blasted Durbin as a "career politician" and released radio spots linking the senator to the IRS email controversy and comparing him to Richard Nixon.

    Over the weekend Oberweis won an endorsement from Bishop Larry Trotter of Chicago's Sweet Holy Spirit Church while Durbin was endorsed by the AFL-CIO.

    According to the Sun-Times/We Ask America poll, a 60 percent majority said they were less likely to vote for a politician who had long served in Washington. In Durbin's favor, 54.4 percent said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who had previously waged multiple unsuccessful campaigns for public office.