PI Original Josh Kalven Monday April 27th, 2009, 9:05am

Schakowsky Poll Declares Senate Race "Wide Open"

Today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky will send a letter to supporters noting her ongoing interest in running for higher office and declaring: "On Monday, June 8th, I will announce whether I will run for reelection to Congress or for the U.S. Senate in 2010."  Also:

This ...

Today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky will send a letter to supporters noting her ongoing interest in running for higher office and declaring: "On Monday, June 8th, I will announce whether I will run for reelection to Congress or for the U.S. Senate in 2010."  Also:

This week we completed a poll to test how I would fair in a competitive Democratic primary.  I wanted you to see the results which indicate that, while the outcome is far from conclusive, I would be the strongest contender of those who have indicated their interest so far.

The Schakowsky survey -- conducted by Lake Research Partners -- tested her statewide support against incumbent Roland Burris and challenger Alexi Giannoulias.  Here's what if found in a three-way primary, according to the polling memo:

Findings from a recent survey of likely Democratic Primary voters in Illinois show a wide open race. [...]

In an initial three-way trial heat, Schakowsky takes nearly a quarter of the vote (24%), narrowly edging out State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (22%). Senator Roland Burris draws just 18% of the vote – a striking indicator of his vulnerability. The intensity of support also narrowly favors Schakowsky (16% strong support), followed by Giannoulias (15%) and Burris (10%). Still, with over one-third (36%) of the Democratic Primary electorate undecided, this seat is up for grabs.

The share of respondents who said they'd vote for Burris tracks neatly with his favorability rating -- just 19 percent -- in a recent Rasmussen poll

The poll also provided respondents with positive statements about Schakowsky, Giannoulias, and Cheryle Jackson ("substituted for Roland Burris in order to simulate the most competitive scenario with an African-American woman in the race").  According to the memo, Schakowsky's support jumped to 38 percent after the positives were read, while Giannoulias stayed put at 22 percent and Jackson attracted 17 percent. The poll also tested negative messages about the candidates, with the memo reporting: "Even after hearing a strong attack on Schakowsky, the Congresswoman retains her lead."  That "strong attack" likely pertained to her husband's 2006 conviction for bad checks and tax evasion.

One interesting tidbit: the memo notes that Giannoulias had better name recognition than Schakowsky statewide, though it doesn't detail the margin. 

Finally, Schakowsky's statement cites an earlier, unreleased poll testing her chances against a potential GOP candidate:

Early in the year, we asked voters to judge how well I would fair in a General Election race against a strong Republican contender.  It was clear that Illinois voters do not want a Senator who opposed the Obama agenda.  The data said I would be the likely winner.

That "strong Republican contender" is almost certainly Mark Kirk, who last year criticized his Democratic challenger for "back[ing] the Obama agenda."

Below is the polling memo (click button in upper-right-hand corner to enlarge), followed by the full text of the letter:

Here's the letter from Schakowsky:

Dear Friend,

Some weeks ago I reported to you that I was taking a serious look at running for the U.S. Senate in 2010.  As part of that decision-making process, I commissioned a nationally respected polling firm, Lake Research, to conduct two separate polls to test how well I would do in a competitive election.

Early in the year, we asked voters to judge how well I would fair in a General Election race against a strong Republican contender.  It was clear that Illinois voters do not want a Senator who opposed the Obama agenda.  The data said I would be the likely winner.

This week we completed a poll to test how I would fair in a competitive Democratic primary.  I wanted you to see the results which indicate that, while the outcome is far from conclusive, I would be the strongest contender of those who have indicated their interest so far.

The hardest part of the decision is still yet to come, however – the “Gut Check.”  I have a very precious seat.  I am privileged to represent a marvelous district, I have ten years of seniority in the House, I am part of the leadership team, I sit on the key committees deciding our energy, health and national security policies.  This is THE year during which great progress can be made.  On the other hand, there would be many new and powerful opportunities serving in the United States Senate – being one of a hundred.

On Monday, June 8th, I will announce whether I will run for reelection to Congress or for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

As I weigh this decision, your opinion, as one who has been a friend and supporter, is of great interest to me.  LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.

- Jan Schakowsky

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