While Nate Silver proved to have the powers of a mathematical superhero when he absolutely nailed his predictions for the 2012 presidential elections, a post yesterday on the blog showed that his powers don't spill over to others and other races. Writing on the popular fivethirtyeight blog that Silver heads up, Micah Cohen put the supposed poll-reader magic to 2014 gubernatorial races, showing approval ratings and which governors are most vulnerable.
As Cohen notes, Illinois governor Pat Quinn has the second-lowest net job approval rating at -24 (approval rating minus disapproval rating). But the limits of fivethirtyeight's powers show mightily when they breezily mention Quinn and the likelihood that he'll win solely because he's a Democrat.
Although Mr. Quinn is the second most unpopular governor up for re-election in 2014, he is a Democrat in deep blue Illinois. If he runs, he is still considered a favorite to win re-election: the Cook Political Report, Sabato's Crystal Ball and The Rothenberg Political Report rate the Illinois governor's race, respectively, as leaning Democratic, likely Democratic and likely Democratic.
In other words, being unpopular does not necessarily make an incumbent vulnerable to defeat.
This, of course, is conventional wisdom as is the idea that Illinois would lean slightly towards the left in terms of a governor. But, for once, fivethirtyeight's crystal ball is too cloudy to take in the context of the Democratic primary and the odds Quinn doesn't even win his own party. This may be splitting hairs a bit, but with a potential run from Lisa Madigan casting an even longer shadow over Quinn than at any point before, and public sentiment already against Quinn, the chances of fivethirtyeight's projection coming to fruition are low. Of course, we can't expect national media to be following the ins-and-outs of day-to-day movement in a state race where potential opponents haven't even announced their candidacy so they're (mostly) off the hook for this pick.
But the odds remain against Quinn - for now, anyway - as recent polling by Public Policy Polling shows, with Quinn trailing two of the top three potential GOP opponents.
The state's democratic primary is still 11 months away.
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green