With just months until the highly-anticipated “battle of the billionaires” reaches the November election, it appears J.B. Pritzker currently leads incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, according to an exclusive NBC News/Marist poll.
The results suggest Pritzker is ahead by 16 points, getting support from 46 percent of registered voters in the state to Rauner’s 30 percent. Libertarian candidate Grayson “Kash” Jackson got 6 percent, and Sam McCann, who’s running as a Conservative Party candidate, was at 4 percent, according to the poll.
Thirteen percent were undecided for the Nov. 6 election.
NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago will host a gubernatorial forum on Sept. 20. Both Pritzker and Rauner have said they plan to take part.
"Make no mistake," said Mark Murray, senior political editor at NBC News, "right now Bruce Rauner is the one who is in biggest trouble in this poll."
After nearly four contentious years in office, Rauner’s unfavorable rating, according to the poll, is at 52 percent. On the flip side, 35 percent of voters view Pritzker unfavorably.
NBC News/Marist Poll: Summary of Findings
Pritzker, a venture capitalist and billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is running to unseat the incumbent first-term GOP governor. He most recently received a high-profile endorsement from former President Barack Obama.
Rauner has spent much of his time as governor fighting established Democrats.
The unprecedented amount of money being spent in the state’s key race is drawing national attention.
From January through the end of June, the Pritzker campaign spent more than $54 million dollars, according to state records. Rauner checked in with $25.5 million.
The billionaire self-funded Democrat and the near-billionaire Republican incumbent could top the $200-million mark in combined spending when all is said and done - a figure that would break records.
In addition to the race for governor, 49 percent of respondents preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 35 percent preferred Republicans in charge. The state has at least three tight U.S. House races slated for November.
The results also indicated 56 percent of registered voters in Illinois disapprove of President Donald Trump’s job so far. In 2016, Trump got 38 percent of the vote in Illinois.
"President Trump and his job rating at 31 percent is dragging down Republicans up and down the ticket potentially," Murray said.
Twenty-seven percent of Illinois voters named economy and jobs as the most important factor in their vote. Another 19 percent said health care, 14 percent said immigration and 11 percent said federal taxes and spending, according to the poll.
Among Democrats, health care was the no. 1 issue while Republicans listed economy and jobs as their top.
The NBC/Marist poll of Illinois was conducted Aug. 12-16 of 831 adults (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.2 percentage points) and 734 registered voters (plus-minus 4.4 percentage points). Respondents were reached by both cell phone and landline phones.
“Like most Illinoisans, we don’t need a poll to know Bruce Rauner is a failed governor who has stumbled from crisis to crisis, forcing destruction and devastation on communities across Illinois," said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen. "JB is proud to be running a grassroots, statewide campaign to hold Rauner accountable in November and put Springfield back on the side of working families.”
Richard Crosley, a spokesman for McCann camp, said the campaign is "happy with our internal numbers."
"(We) will continue to work for the conservative and down state voters Gov. Rauner has abandoned and J.B. has no interest in representing," he said.
Rauner and Jackson did not immediately respond to NBC 5's request for comment.