Since Governor Bruce Rauner unleashed his nearly $2 million TV Ad buy two weeks ago, political and media pundits have been almost exclusively focused on diagnosing the 30-second spot's 20-second attack of House Speaker Michael Madigan.
What has escaped any substantive analysis is the ad's 10-second promotion of Rauner.
"The ads are not very helpful to the [budget] negotiations," said Paul Simon Public Policy Institute executive director David Yepsen on WGN's "Sunday Spin" last weekend to host Rick Pearson. "Republicans have been attacking Mike Madigan for years hoping to rub off on Democratic legislators and it hasn't seemed to work."
Some version of Yepsen's comments have been repeatedly echoed by political and media insiders throughout the last couple weeks.
But the 10-seconds of Rauner's self-promotional message has been widely overlooked.
"Change in Springfield isn't easy. But you didn't send me here to do what's easy. With your help, I'm goin' to keep fightin' to grow our economy, and fix our broken state government," Rauner says in the spot.
The Rauner ad may be as much about boosting Rauner's political standing as undermining Madigan's.
The governor's job approval rating in multiple key legislative districts has fallen - and in some cases sharply - in four legislative districts recently polled. A May 31 survey by The Illinois Observer's e-newsletter, The Insider in the Southern Illinois district of State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), for example, found that Rauner had an approval rating of just 29.3% and a disapproval of 43.9% or a net approval of minus 14.6 points despite winning Bradley's district over Governor Pat Quinn, 63-31%.
Now a new poll of 711 likely 2016 voters commissioned by The Illinois Observer reveals that Rauner's statewide job approval has fallen to a new low. Moreover, his approval ratings are now upside down.
The June 20 survey conducted by Chicago-based Ogden & Fry, the only polling firm which correctly predicted Rauner's five-point victory margin over Quinn, shows that just 35.7% of voters approve of the way the governor is handling his job while 46.7% disapprove or net approval of minus 11 points.
"Nearly half of respondents disapproved of the Governor's job performance," Ogden & Fry pollster Tom Swiss wrote in his polling memo.
The poll, which had a +/- 3.75% margin of error, identified 17.6% were undecided.
In our last poll on April 22, after Rauner's first 100 days, the governor's approval stood at 40.6% and disapproval at 36.3%. In the last 60 days, as confrontation with Democrats has grown, the governor's approval has dropped by five points and disapproval has grown by 10.
After the governor's first 30 days, an Ogden & Fry survey conducted for The Illinois Observer pegged Rauner's approval at 43.1% and disapproval at 28.2% with 28.6% undecided.
At the start of his term, a January 14 We Ask America poll placed Rauner's approval rating at 52%, with just 23% disapproving and remainder undecided.
Rauner's supporters and, crucially, undecided voters have been shifting into the disapproval column.
Moreover, the governor's 35.7% job approval - after five days of statewide advertising promoting his "change in Springfield" message - is only a hair above the 34% registered by Quinn in a November 22-25, 2013 Public Policy Polling survey. Quinn did have a higher disapproval rating, 60%, to Rauner's 46.7%.
Meanwhile, despite the governor's sinking public support, 2016 likely voters have failed to embrace the role of Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan as a "check and balance" on the governor's agenda, according to the survey.
In response to the question "Do you approve or disapprove of Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan serving as a check and balance on Governor Bruce Rauner's agenda?", only 30.1% of voters approved and 41.5% disapproved and 28.5% are undecided, the poll says.
They're in a poor position as a PR counterweight.
In the battle over the current political stalemate, neither side holds a public opinion advantage with likely 2016 voters.
Still, the bigger fight - and likely point of Rauner's advertising - is over the 2016 election rather the FY 2016 budget.
"I would suggest that this a longer-term effort than just the current stalemate," Pearson said on Sunday.
"I think it [Rauner's ad] may be part of a longer game that the governor and Republicans are playing," said Yepsen. "They want to make gains in the legislative elections in 2016. I'm assuming it's part of longer-term strategy to soften up the Democrats."
More than to "soften up Democrats," the Rauner ad campaign is also aimed at rebuilding the governor's public support. Otherwise, Rauner-funded legislative candidates in 2016 face the same dilemma that Democrats faced under the unpopular Quinn - being associated with a deeply unpopular governor.
There may lie the reason that Madigan has taken to referring to GOP lawmakers as "Rauner Republicans."
David also edits The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.