This is my first installment covering the Senate race. One installment would come per week.
Many pundits have Illinois and Wisconsin Senate locked for the Democrats. While recent polling has suggested Feingold well on path to victory, Illinois’ Senate race has received only minimal coverage. That’s normal because Illinois is not a swing state and polling just for the sake of the Senate race is not very cost effective.
Mark Kirk (R)
First elected in 2010, 1 term.
Tammy Duckworth (D)
U.S. Representative (2 terms)
Mark Kirk has suffered from low approval ratings, non progressive records, and corporate-friendly stances. In a state as progressive as Illinois, Kirk has definitely been targeted by DSCC for defeat. The challenger Tammy Duckworth also has a solid record–Purple Heart Army Lieutenant Colonel, Amputee, Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Congresswoman for two terms. But Kirk is nowhere near weak–he’s a former Navy commander and ten-year representative from the most Democratic district represented by a Republican in the nation (the district went Obama in a landslide twice), and he defeated the state’s treasurer six years ago.
Kirk generated much publicity by being the first sitting Republican Senator to support Merrick Garland’s nomination and has met Garland personally. This gave him a significant advantage ahead of Ron Johnson (Wisconsin Senator target for defeat by DSCC), who refused to support Garland’s nomination and to meet him. Also Kirk’s record is much more moderate than Johnson’s.
Recent pollings also suggest Kirk is stronger than what we perceive. In an internal poll, Duckworth only leads Kirk by 7 points. Duckworth’s lead is even smaller in public polls–a Loras College Poll has Duckworth leading by a sheer five points, whereas in the same poll Clinton leads by 14. An Emerson poll also shows Duckworth leading only by 2, but Emerson only samples on landlines so it skews heavily in favor of the Republicans. Compared to Feingold being up by almost 15 points, this polling result raises an alarm for Democrats so optimistic about defeating Kirk.
But Duckworth starts with a major advantage–she has a war chest of almost 6 million dollars. This is significantly higher than Kirk’s 3 million. Keep in mind that Kirk has almost been abandoned by the GOP and the Republican Senatorial committee, so I am not very optimistic about his chances of defeating Duckworth, especially when Duckworth’s ads bombard Illinois. Also, her campaign seems pretty smart too.
In conclusion, I believe Duckworth starts with a major advantage (mainly due to her warchest campaign funding), but Kirk still has his chances.
Rating: Strongly Leans D
Update (10/18 2016): I am moving this to D Favored mainly because of Loras’ massive fail at Wisconsin and a subsequent poll showing Duckworth up 15 points.