Missing voters key to GOP 2014 comeback


In the movie "Field of Dreams," a farmer sees a vision of a baseball diamond in his cornfield and hears a voice whisper, "If you build it, they will come," meaning the ghosts of baseball past.

That’s the obverse of Illinois Republicans’ philosophy in the developing 2014 congressional elections, which is, if it’s a mid-term election with Barack Obama in the White House, the Democratic base will not come out, and if you contest Democratic incumbents Brad Schneider (10th), Bill Foster (11th), Cheri Bustos (17th) and Bill Enyart (12th), victory is plausible, as 2014 could be another 2010.

Call it the Obama slump or, more aptly, Obama fatigue, as far fewer Democrats voted in 2010 than in 2008. As is detailed in the adjoining chart, the Democratic vote in those four districts declined by 327,582 between 2008 and 2010 and the turnout plunged by 323,894. That, astonishingly, means that about the same number of 2008 Republican McCain voters came out in 2010, but that almost a third of the 2008 Obama Democrats didn’t vote in 2010.

If that is replicated in 2014, with 300,000-plus Democratic voters missing in action, it will be a very good year for the Republicans.

In 2008 the Democrats had a 12-7 majority in Illinois’ congressional delegation. In 2010 the Republicans knocked off Democratic incumbents Melissa Bean (8th), Bill Foster (14th), Phil Hare (17th) and Debbie Halvorson (11th) and easily kept Mark Kirk’s North Shore 10th District seat. That gave the Republicans an 11-8 delegation majority.

In the 2011 remap, the Democratic-controlled Illinois General Assembly reconfigured the 8th, 10th, 13th and 17th districts and made difficult, if not impossible, the re-election prospects of Republican incumbents Joe Walsh, Bob Dold, Judy Biggert, who was put in the new 11th District with Foster, and Bobby Shilling. All four lost in 2012, and the state lost one seat due to population decline, with two Republican districts combined. That gave the Democrats a 12-6 delegation majority.

As is shown in the chart, the 2012 Democratic congressional vote, aided by Obama atop the ticket, bounced back to near the 2008 level. Schneider beat Dold by a minuscule 2,518 votes, Bustos beat Shilling by 18,259 votes, Foster beat Biggert by 38,850 votes, Tammy Duckworth beat Walsh by 20,938 votes, and Enyart, in the open Metro East/East Saint Louis seat, won by 26,039 votes. Republican Rodney Davis squeaked out a 1,587-vote win in the open Champaign-Urbana-Decatur seat.

For the 2014 election, all those districts except Duckworth’s are in play. Republican recruitment has been noteworthy. Dold and Shilling are attempting comebacks, and well known state representatives Mike Bost and Darlene Senger are running against Enyart and Foster, respectively. If the Democratic vote collapses by one-third as it did in 2010, Schneider, Foster, Bustos and Enyart are in serious jeopardy. Only Duckworth, who has no credible Republican opposition looming, is safe.

Here’s an analysis:

10th District: The Democrats’ 2011 remap excised the Republican Wheeling-Palatine area from the district, eliminating 100,000 voters, and added Democratic Waukegan and Zion, making Lake County dominant over Cook County. In 2008, when Kirk, now a U.S. senator, was re-elected, turnout was 291,258, and Kirk won 153,082-138,176, a margin of 14,906 votes over Democrat Dan Seals. Seals lost in 2006 by 107,929-94,278, in a turnout of 202,207.

Of the 2008 votes, 161,214 were cast in Cook County and 130,044 were cast in Lake County. Kirk won Cook County by 16,498 votes, and Seals won Lake County by 1,592 votes. Turnout dropped to 215,231 in 2010, 76,000 less than in 2008. Dold defeated Seals by 4,651 votes, carrying Cook County by 10,321 votes but losing Lake County by 5,670 votes. In 2010 Dold had 109,941 votes, 43,141 fewer than Kirk had in 2008, and Seals had 105,290 votes, 32,886 fewer than in 2008. Both parties’ vote was down by 30 percent, but the Republicans maintained a slight districtwide edge.

The remap was decisive in 2012. Only Northfield and New Trier townships and parts of Maine and Wheeling townships remained in the Cook County portion of the district, which now casts just 25 percent of the district vote. Obama won Lake County with 57.1 percent of the vote, and Schneider won with just 50.5 percent of the vote, buoyed by majorities of 72.8 percent in Waukegan Township and 63.4 percent in Zion Township. Obama won the Cook County part of the 10th District with 58.6 percent of the vote, and Schneider got 51.1 percent. Schneider won Lake County by 103,495-101,389, a margin of 2,106 votes, and Cook County by 30,373-29,161, a margin of 1,212 votes.

In a recruitment coup, the Republicans enticed Dold to run again in 2014. The most recent Federal Election Commission filings indicate that Dold raised an impressive $546,000 through June 30, with $616,000 cash on hand. Schneider, who is a loyal Obama vote, raised $387,000 and had $531,000 on hand. Each will spend $6 million on the 2014 election.

"It will be all about brand and enthusiasm," said one Lake County Democratic activist, who acknowledged that Schneider is a competent but colorless congressman. "He hasn’t solidified himself." Turnout was 73.7 percent in 2008, collapsed to 51.3 percent in 2010, and revived to 70.2 percent in 2012. In 2012 Dold spent $7.5 million, to $4.9 million for Schneider.

Outlook: Each side will spend $4 million. Without Obama atop the ticket, turnout will drop to 215,000. Minimal negative baggage attaches to Dold and Schneider, so the negativity will attach to Obama. His popularity and credibility in October of 2014 will be crucial. If there’s an anti-Obama trend, Schneider will lose.

12th District: South of Interstate 80, Illinois is culturally conservative and increasingly Republican. Nowhere is that more notable than suburban Saint Clair County, in the East Saint Louis suburbs, and, to the north, Madison County, which contains Collinsville, Granite City, Edwardsville and Alton. The Democrats’ remap split Madison County three ways: the east third to Republican U.S. Representative John Shimkus, the central third to Davis, and the west third to Enyart, of Belleville.

In a mild 2012 upset, Enyart, a former commander of the Illinois National Guard, beat Jason Plummer, the scion of a wealthy family which owns a chain of lumber stores. Enyart won by 154,621-128,582, in a turnout of 283,203. The reason: The remap dismembered the Madison County Republican vote, black turnout in East Saint Louis (population 27,006) was exceptionally high, and those black voters backed Obama-Enyart overwhelmingly.

The Republicans recruited Bost, a 20-year legislator from the Carbondale area, for 2014. The district takes in the southern tip of Illinois and stretches from the Mississippi River to Mount Vernon. More than 60 percent of the vote is outside of Metro East. Bost will be well funded by outside groups and Washington Republicans. Democratic incumbent Jerry Costello won 212,891-74,382 in 2008, in a turnout of 298,180, while in 2010 Costello won 121,272-74,046, in a turnout of 202,705. Costello’s vote plunged by 91,619, and the Republicans’ stayed virtually the same. In 2012 Enyart ran 58,270 votes behind Costello’s 2008 showing, and Plummer had 54,000 more votes than the Republican base.

Outlook: Turnout in 2014 will barely top 200,000. Bost has a solid rural base. Enyart is a reliable Obama vote. Bost will win.

13th District: Davis was appointed nominee in 2012 after Republican incumbent Tim Johnson quit. Johnson’s old district was in Eastern Illinois, including Champaign, Urbana and Bloomington. The new district now runs from Champaign-Urbana through Decatur to Madison County. Davis won by 135,596-135,309 over a weak Democratic opponent. His 2014 foe is former Madison County Judge Ann Callis.

Davis has $703,000 on hand, and Callis has $211,000. Davis faces primary opposition from former Miss America Erika Harold. Outlook: Davis will be re-elected.

11th District: Foster won a 2008 special election to replace Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, voted in lockstep with Obama, and got trounced in 2010. The Democrats created a new one-third Hispanic district for him, cobbling together Aurora, Joliet, Bolingbrook and Naperville. He easily beat Biggert, whose home of Hinsdale was put in a different district. Outlook: Foster still votes with Obama, but Senger, a state representative from Naperville since 2008, is a formidable opponent. Foster has $372,000 on hand. Foster favored.

17th District: Complacent Democratic incumbent Phil Hare was unopposed in 2008, but he got blind-sided 104,583-85,454 in 2010, as his vote dropped by 135,507. The remap changed the district from one which stretched from the Quad Cities to just north of Madison County, including Quincy, to one which stretched from Galena, at the Wisconsin border, to Macomb, taking in Peoria and Rockford. Bustos beat Shilling 148,229-129,970. Outlook: Bustos has $381,000 on hand, and she is favored.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.

Illinois Congressional Election Chart

2012 Margin
2008 Turnout
2010 Turnout
Turnout Decline
Dem Vote Decline
2012 Turnout
Schneider (D-10)
Duckworth (D-8)
Foster (D-11)
Davis (R-13)
Bustos (D-17
Enyart (D-12)

*Districts were remapped in 2011

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