May 17, 2005

Illinois begins to wake from the nightmare

A recent poll shows President Bush's approval rating among Illinois voters has slipped since last fall, especially downstate and in Chicago's collar counties, which are traditional Republican strongholds.

Approval of Bush's overall performance was 41 percent in Illinois according to results from a statewide Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll published Monday -- down from 45 percent in a similar poll in October.

Bush lost Illinois in his Nov. 2 presidential victory, with Democratic nominee John Kerry winning 54.8 percent of the vote compared to Bush's 44.5 percent.

The poll shows 47 percent of downstate voters approve of the job Bush is doing -- down from 57 percent before the election. His approval rating in the collar counties slid from 53 percent last fall to 46 percent.

The latest results also show waning support among voters statewide for Bush's handling of the Iraq war and skepticism about his plan to fix Social Security by letting younger workers put a portion of their payroll taxes into personal accounts.

Statewide, 47 percent of voters said they thought Bush's plan for Social Security was a bad idea, while 33 percent liked it.

Nearly half of respondents in the collar counties, or 49 percent, said the war in Iraq has gone worse than they expected, while 14 percent said it has gone better. Among downstate voters, 45 percent said the war has gone worse than expected and 12 percent said it has gone better.

DePaul University political science professor Wayne Steger said continued weakening of voters' support for the war could further erode Bush's popularity and hurt Republicans' election prospects next year.

"If we are talking similar casualties, similar costs, next year at this time ... Republicans in general are going to be in trouble," he said.

The telephone survey of 1,200 Illinois registered voters was conducted May 5-10 by Market Shares Corp. of Mt. Prospect. The poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Could it be that Illinoisans, like the country in general, are finally emerging from their fear-induced coma?

It reminds me of a story, if I can reconstruct it. It seems that a Republican saw an ad in the paper that read "Republican puppies for sale." Of course, being Republican, the idea of having a Republican puppy held great appeal. He'd likely name the dog "Reagan" if it was a male and "Coulter" if it was a bitch. (ahem)

The ad listed a farm out in the country, and the guy couldn't get away for almost a week to go pick one out. When he finally got out to the farm, he asked the farmer if he still had the Republican puppies for sale. "Nope," said the farmer, "These are Democratic puppies." The Republican was flustered and sputtered, "But just last week you said they were Republican puppies!"

"Yup." the farmer replied, "But now they've opened their eyes."

Hey, thanks folks, you've been great. I'm here all week. Try the veal and don't forget to tip your waitress.

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