After a brutal Democrat Primary in which U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin intervened to push out several candidates in favor of his close family friend, Cheri Callahan-Bustos, signs are beginning to emerge that the district might not be as Democrat-friendly as once believed. U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling (photo right) has held a double-digit or near-double-digit lead over Bustos in all publicly released polls of the district. Schilling recently released a Public Opinion Strategies poll showing a 13-point lead over his opponent. His opponent’s campaign manager responded by releasing a poll from February showing Schilling with just a nine-point lead. However, it’s clear that Schilling has gained significant ground since February, while Bustos appears to have gained very little. Schilling is headed to victory in a district that does not match the intended Democrat tilt.
Raised (6/30/12) Cash-on-Hand (6/30/12) Recent Polling (8/9/12)
Schilling (R) 1,500,000 950,000 50
Bustos (D) 1,200,000 830,000 37
February 2012 (Bustos Poll GBA Strategies): Schilling 44, Bustos 35
May 2012 (Public Opinion Strategies): Schilling 51, Bustos 35
August 2012 (Public Opinion Strategies): Schilling 50, Bustos 37
IL-17 by the Numbers:
Schilling has the benefit of being fairly well known and popular. Schilling’s name recognition has consistently been above 80% in all polling, and voters have a strongly favorable opinion towards him. In August, 42% of voters had a favorable opinion of Schilling, while 20% had an unfavorable opinion. That mirrors the results from May: 42% of voters had a favorable opinion of Schilling then, while 22% had an unfavorable opinion. Bustos was not able to damage Schilling’s image at all over the summer.
Bustos has her own image problems. Despite having already won the Democrat primary, Bustos has a startlingly low 49% name ID, and only a 46% name ID among Democrats. This indicates that her party is dramatically unenthused about their candidate. Moreover, 19% of soft Democrats and 12% of Democrats overall indicate that they plan to vote for Schilling in November. 51% of Independents plan to vote for Schilling, while only 16% of Independents said they would vote for Bustos. With strong support from Republicans, a surprisingly high amount of support from Democrats, and Independents going for Schilling by more than 3 to 1, it’s clear that the electorate is not interested in sending Cheri Bustos to Washington.
Schilling: Leading by Example:
In less than two years on the job, Bobby Schilling has assembled an impressive record including bipartisan cooperation with Democrat Congressmen like Dan Lipinski and Dave Loebsack. He’s worked to increase public-private partnerships at the Rock Island Arsenal—a major area employer. He’s cut his office budget by upwards of 11% and returned $110,000 to taxpayers. Schilling also rejected his congressional pension and health care plans. Voters are responding to Schilling’s message of talking the talk and walking the walk.
While Democrats in Springfield drew the new congressional map to favor their candidates, they appear to have outsmarted themselves in the Illinois 17th District. Bobby Schilling is poised to move toward victory in a more competitive race than Democrats were expecting. While Cheri Bustos continues to tout the district’s D+6 advantage, polling indicates that she is clearly underperforming compared to Democrats on the national level. Election handicappers should be cautioned that while Bustos is a strong fundraiser, she remains relatively unknown and her message is clearly not resonating in IL-17. Simply put, Cheri Bustos is running out of time to make this a competitive race.