Poll: Duckworth Lead Over Kirk Shrivels

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's U.S. Senate campaign is hoping that supporters and reporters have no long-term memory.

On Thursday, Duckworth's campaign fired off a fundraising email to supporters bragging about a new poll showing her leading Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk by four-points.

"Today's poll is great news, but we can't take a 4-point lead for granted - we need to build up the resources now to withstand millions in right-wing Super PAC spending," wrote Duckworth finance director Leah Israel.

Yay!

The poll, commissioned by the left-leaning End Citizens United PAC, surveyed 948 voters between 9/10-14/15 and found that Duckworth leads Kirk 45-41. The survey, conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs, had a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

Typically, when a challenger is besting an incumbent U.S. Senator that is indeed news to trumpet. No doubt.

When the poll reveals, however, that your opponent has regained strength and narrowed the contest, it's a poll, perhaps, to ignore.

On July 29, Public Policy Polling published the results of a July 20-21 survey of 931 registered voters that showed Duckworth leading Kirk by six-points or 42-36%.

The PPP poll broadly hinted that Duckworth's lead is driven more by voters' disapproval of Kirk than a groundswell of enthusiasm for the second-term House Democrat.

The survey found that just 25% of voters approve of Kirk's job performance while 42% disapprove, an upside-down rating of 17 points. Not good. Still, just 34% of voters have favorable impression of Duckworth and 23% have an unfavorable impression with a whopping 43% undecided. She's essentially a blank slate.

More significantly, a June 23 Ogden & Fry survey of 598 likely 2016 Illinois voters commissioned by The Illinois Observer's e-newsletter, The Insider, found that Duckworth led Kirk 43.8-27.3% or 16.5 points.

At the time of the June poll, Kirk had already committed his infamous "bro with no ho" gaffe - among other verbal pratfalls - referring to his colleague U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is a bachelor.

But, in less than 90 days, Kirk seems to have recovered lost ground by adding 14-points while Duckworth has remained flat.

In fact, Duckworth's support has not budget since December 2014 when a poll found Duckworth-Kirk tied.

The survey of 1,003 Illinois voters, commissioned by The Illinois Observer and conducted by We Ask America on December 18, had Duckworth leading Kirk 45.59-45.02%, with 9.39% undecided.

Why has her lead shrunk?

Duckworth's campaign declined to provide an on the record comment.

Kirk's campaign, unsurprisingly, was more forthcoming.

"Illinois voters want an effective, independent senator and the more they learn of Rep. Duckworth the more they are troubled by her ineffectiveness and concerned about her upcoming trial on ethics violations," Kirk campaign manager Kevin Artl said. "As Illinois' Director of Veterans Affairs under Rod Blagojevich, Rep. Duckworth had a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable, but when it came time for her to stand up and protect the most vulnerable, she did not."

A looming trial on a lawsuit alleging workplace ethics violations from almost a decade ago when Duckworth served as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs brought a slew of unflattering headlines over the summer. Kirk and his GOP allies also spent under $50,000 to move that and other messages around social media over the summer.

Still, though the news did almost nothing to dent her support, perhaps it did help nudge undecided voters back into Kirk's corner. Additionally, failing to snag the Cook County Democratic Party endorsement endorsement did little to fire up Democratic partisans in Duckworth's favor.

Of course, drawing conclusions about polling data related to a general election 14-months away is a fool's errand. Predicting a Cubs pennant win would be easier. But the polling does reveal Duckworth's campaign, despite endorsements from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, has remained stuck at about 45% for nine-months. Zippo forward movement.

On the other hand, the newest survey does little to dispel the notion that Kirk remains one of the most vulnerable Republican senators heading into 2016. But it does suggest that that the contest may not be a Duckworth-rout that some had thought it would be just a few months ago.

It would behoove Duckworth, who still has to win a Democratic primary against former Chicago Public Schools board member Andrea Zopp, to prove that she can indeed move the needle forward, rather just sit and sit and sit on her lead for friggin' ever.

davidormsby@davidormsby.com