Dold, Schneider prompt 10th Dist. vote fatigue
by RUSS STEWART
The problem that Bob Dold and Brad Schneider have in the 10th U.S. House District race is that they’ve become a problem. In this, their third contest, they’ve become tiresome, pedantic, predictable and increasingly annoying.
The district encompasses eastern Lake County and a tier of upscale suburbs in northern Cook County extending from Lake Michigan to Wheeling. The median income is $68,184, ranking 68th among the nation’s 435 House districts, 33.9 percent of the adult voters earn $100,000 or more (of which 11.5 percent earn $200,000 or more), and 67.4 percent of the 716,308 residents have a college or post-graduate degree or some college education. Hence, they have a low tolerance for political deception, and most do not choose to identify with either party.
This year they’re especially weary of Democrat Schneider’s persistent lies about incumbent Republican Dold and of Dold’s repetitious and plaintive whining that he’s a "bipartisan independent." They just want to get this over and not have to revisit a Dold-Schneider race, with its barrage of propaganda, every 2 years forevermore.
Through Oct. 1, Dold raised $3,888,489 and Schneider raised $2,887,967. The vast bulk of that money is being spent on prime time television ads, with Schneider’s tagline being "vote for Schneider and the Democrats," hoping a Clinton tide will pull him through, while Dold, who has repudiated Trump, positions himself as an "independent," never mentioning his party affiliation. Neither is well loved nor especially charismatic, and neither has a deep reservoir of voter support.
Schneider, of Deerfield, is as usual running a negative campaign plotted by Washington Democrats. Nary a word was said about any "accomplishments" during his 2013-14 term, his lock-step support of the Obama-Pelosi agenda, or on what issues he and Dold disagree. Schneider’s goal is to "nationalize" the race as a choice between Washington Democrats and Washington Republicans, while Dold’s task is to "localize" it, making it a referendum on Dold and his record.
Schneider’s avalanche of TV ads accuse "Dold and the Republicans" of seeking to raise the Social Security retirement age and privatizing it, of being beholden to "Big Money, of being in the pocket of "Big Oil" and opposing environmental protections, of being opposed to abortion rights and gun control, and for allowing employers to not hire gays. Some congressional Republicans, some time in the past, subscribed to all or part of that agenda, but never Dold. Schneider’s ads are fabrications, but by lumping Dold with his party, it’s just a lie, not an egregious lie. Of course, Schneider raised his $2.9 million, and $3.8 million in 2014, by eschewing "Big Money."
Dold, of Kenilworth, has become a master whiner, perpetually protesting that he’s a "Republican In Name Only." He opposed repealing "Obamacare" and the Iran nuclear deal, and he supports abortion rights, gun control and arming Israel to the teeth. That makes him an "Occasional Republican." Given the demographics of the 10th District, the only kind of Republican who can win is an OR, as exemplified by Dold’s predecessors, John Porter (1979 to 2000) and Mark Kirk (2001 to 2010). The last conservative to win the seat was Sam Young in 1972, and he lost after one term.
Since the North Shore 10th District was created in 1942, and then the non-Skokie and non-Evanston parts were merged into the Lake County 12th District in 1982, it’s been represented by a Republican for all but 7 of those 74 years. The only Democrats were Abner Mikva (1974 to 1979) and Schneider.
When Dold won in 2010, succeeding Kirk, who successfully ran for the U.S. Senate, the district was much more Republican. Dold beat Dan Seals, a Democrat making his third try who was as bland and boring as Schneider. After losses to Kirk in 2006 and 2008, Seals engendered no enthusiasm. In the 2010 contest, Dold beat him 109,941-105,290, in a turnout of 215,231, spending $2,985,088 to $2,935,602 for Seals. Seals had lost to Kirk 107,929-94,278 in 2006 and 153,082-138,176 in 2008, with Seals getting 42,895 fewer votes than Barack Obama and Kirk getting 39,047 more votes than John McCain.
The Mike Madigan-crafted 2011 remap was designed to make the 10th an impregnable Democratic district. In 2010, turnout in the Cook County section was 122,093, and Dold won by 10,321 votes; turnout in Lake County was 136,009, and Seals won by 5,760 votes. Overall, Dold won by 4,461 votes. The district was split roughly 50/50 between the counties, with a solid Republican base in and around Palatine, Arlington Heights and Wheeling.
Under the new map, the district became 65 percent Lake County, with the Cook County section reduced from 290 precincts to 110 precincts. Most of the western Cook County areas were moved to Peter Roskam’s 6th District, leaving only Glencoe, Winnetka, Kenilworth, Northbrook, Northfield, Wheeling, Prospect Heights and parts of Niles, Morton Grove and Glenview. Added were heavily Democratic Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion, with a large Hispanic population which, combined with heavily Jewish Deerfield, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills and Highland Park, created a solid 30 to 35 percent Democratic base in Lake County. Grayslake and Round Lake Beach have an exploding Hispanic population. In 2012 Schneider, who is Jewish, won Lake County by 2,106 votes and Cook County by 1,220 votes. Districtwide turnout of 264,454 in the presidential year was up almost 50,000 over 2010, with Dold losing 133,890-130,564, a margin of 3,326 votes. Dold got 20,623 more votes than in 2010.
Coming so close, in both a Democratic-leaning district and a hostile year when Obama won the district 157,400-112,552, Dold was entitled to a second shot. He got 28,000 more votes than Mitt Romney. Each spent more than $3 million.
In 2014, a generally anti-Obama year, turnout was down by roughly 77,000 from 2012 and back to 2010 levels. Dold won 95,992-91,136, a margin of 4,856 votes in a turnout of 187,128. Schneider ran a negative campaign against "Dold and the Tea Party," tying the out-of-office Dold to Tea Party loonies and never mentioning his own slavish support of Obama. Dold carried Cook County by 241 votes and Lake County by 4,615 votes. In 2014 both candidates "nationalized" the race, with Dold focusing on bringing out anti-Obama Republicans and independents and Schneider focusing on energizing 2012 Obama voters, with Schneider getting a stunning 42,754 fewer votes than in 2012. Dold’s vote was down 34,572. Dold spent $3,648,085, and Schneider spent $4,754,838.
The presidential contest, and the implosion of Trump’s candidacy, will have less effect in the 10th District than in other congressional districts. Many voters actually think through their ballot choices, rationalizing that having a liberal Democratic president should be balanced by having a fiscally conservative Republican congressman who is socially liberal. Obama won the old 10th District in 2008 by 77,562 votes, and Kirk won by 14,802 votes. Obama won the new 10th District in 2012 by 44,848 votes, and Schneider won by 3,326 votes.
Anti-Trump Republicans won’t stay at home in November; they will come out and vote for Kirk and Dold. Independents, who make up 40 top 45 percent of the electorate, will likely break 60-40 for Clinton, but they can show their "independence" by voting for Dold, who needs 60 percent-plus of their votes. The key is the turnout of hardcore Democrats, a third of the electorate, who will vote Clinton-Schneider; if they vote at 2012 levels, Dold cannot win.
Dold has had 4 years to entrench himself and to "educate" voters on his issue stances. As with Porter and Kirk, voters are not dissatisfied. Dold has strong support in posh Lakefront towns such as Lake Bluff, Lake Forest and Bannockburn, as well as in Riverwoods, Libertyville, Vernon Hills and Mundelein in the west, where the Jewish and Hispanic population is low.
The district is 21 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black, and an estimated one-third Jewish, amounting to half the population. It is a plus-8 district, which means it is 8 percent more Democratic than the mean, which is 50-50. That gives Dold little room for error. He needs 20 to 25 percent of the Clinton voters to opt for him, which means about 40,000 voters. Dold’s biggest advantage is that he came out early in his disavowal of Trump, and voters will remember that. Schneider is a lump, while Dold has shown some guts. My prediction: Dold wins by under 1,000 votes.
Historically, congressional rematches arise in limited situations:
*The Ping-Pong Scenario. There are only about a dozen House districts won by Obama which sport a Republican congressman, and they range from plus-5 to plus-15, including NH-1, NV-3, NV-4, IA-1, ME-l, NY-1, NY-19, NY-22, NY-23, NY-24, and PA-8, along with IL-10 seat. In each, a first re-election is critical to entrenchment. In NH-1, this year is the fourth election in which the same candidates have run. If Dold wins in November, he will be entrenched.
*The Newt Gingrich Scenario: A loser is viable as long as he or she "grows" the vote. The former speaker ran in a rural-suburban Atlanta district in 1974, lost again in 1976, but won in 1978. Seals failed in the 10th District because his vote growth was flat. He got 94,278 votes in 2006 and 105,290 votes in 2010. No fourth chance in 2012, when he could have won.
Does another fatiguing Dold-Schneider contest loom for 2018? Not a chance. Whoever loses will be history.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.