Midterm Elections: Rauner Leads Quinn 51-39 in New Poll

The GOP gubernatorial candidate polls full-steam ahead despite his tax scandal

Come November, Springfield could very well see a changing of the guard from Gov. Pat Quinn to Bruce Rauner. Another Capitol Fax/We Ask America survey shows Rauner consistently polling ahead of Quinn -- this time, by 12 points for a 51-39 lead.

But it's still early in the game as Rauner struggles to recover from the Chicago Tribune's gotcha revelations that he used a corporate tax loophole to avoid Social Security and Medicare payments.

Capitol Fax's Rich Miller surveyed 940 likely voters on the issue in his latest poll, and the results revealed Rauner-related resentment: Sixty percent said the tax scandal made them less likely to support the Winnetka venture capitalist while 20 percent said it made them more likely to back the GOP gubernatorial nominee. Another 20 percent were indifferent.

Most interesting, via Miller: "A dangerously high 66 percent of women said the tax issue made them less likely to vote for the candidate, compared to a 49 percent plurality of men. (Twenty-seven) percent of men said the news actually made them more likely to vote for Rauner, compared to 23 percent who said it made no difference. That’s probably because Rauner is doing much better with men than women, despite running a zillion TV ads prominently featuring women. While he leads Quinn 60-33 among men, his female lead is just 3 points, 46-43. Quinn will surely put lots of focus there."

Indeed. As we previously reported, Rauner is courting women voters big time in a new full-scale TV attack on Quinn that launched Friday. The ads -- featuring a female narrator -- bash the blue-state governor for "broken promises" on jobs, taxes and education, and mark the first time Rauner has gone truly negative in his small-screen spots.

Quinn, meanwhile, is shrewdly playing up income inequality -- one of the most crucial issues in American politics right now -- to cast Rauner as an out-of-touch mega-millionaire.

All the same, Rauner's edge in the polls underscores brewing voter antipathy toward Quinn, whose low approval ratings and botched anti-violence program make him fair game despite the advantages of incumbency and Democratic dominance in Illinois.

When asked about Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative -- under federal and state investigations for financial wrongdoing -- a 60 percent majority of poll-takers said they'd be less likely to vote for Quinn given the scandal with 21 percent saying they support the governor regardless. Along gender lines, more men than women -- 64 percent versus 57 percent -- said the NRI debacle made them less inclined to endorse Quinn at the ballot box on Nov. 4.

According to Miller, a "very dangerously high 74 percent" of downstate Illinoisians were the least likely to vote for Quinn amid the pile-up of probes as opposed to 33 percent of Chicagoans. In the Windy City, where pro-Quinn sentiment remains the healthiest, Rauner's tax-avoidance brouhaha garnered the most negative response, with 73 percent saying they'd be less likely to vote for the Republican businessman.

Though Rauner surpasses Quinn 50-41 in suburban Cook County, which leans Democratic, and 64-25 downstate, which leans Republican, 59 percent of those surveyed from the regions checked off the "less likely" category in response to the tax question. Opinion was nearly split down the middle in the Republican-leaning, Rauner-supporting "collar" counties -- Kane, DuPage, Lake McHenry and Will -- that Quinn lost during the close 2010 election. Quinn's triumph over Bill Brady was thanks to votes from Cook County Democrats.

It remains to be seen whether Rauner's Medicare-dodging will derail his political ambitions along with those hard-to-ignore nursing home lawsuits. But if the NRI-related fallout continues to taint Quinn's already-battered reputation, then the controversial loophole accounting trick might not matter so much. In the end, things may boil down to two words: Quinn fatigue. (Democrats are feeling it too.)

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