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If Nate Silver doesn't wind up as someone's figure of the year for 2012, it will be an injustice to the man who was nearly perfect in his call of the 2012 presidential election. Silver did for politics what he had previously done for baseball and did it on the largest stage possible - the New York Times. He faced his share of criticism down the stretch but, in the end, his math was impeccable. He also has a new book out and has made the media rounds, including a recent visit to the Chicago Humanities Festival earlier this fall, the video of which is now below. It's a great talk from a great mind and is recommended listening/viewing.

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Sun-Times Photo


SPRINGFIELD-With only one in four Illinois voters approving his job performance, Gov. Pat Quinn is the least popular in the country and would lose in head-to-head pairings against two of three Republicans eying his job in 2014, a newly commissioned survey found Thursday.

The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm found that just 25 percent of voters in Illinois approved of the work Quinn is doing, while 64 percent disapprove of his job performance -- a level of support that the company said made him "the most unpopular governor [it] has polled on anywhere in the country this year."


If a general election were held today, Quinn would lose to state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) by a 44- to 37-percent margin and to state Treasurer Dan Rutherford by a 43- to 39-percent margin, the firm reported.

If matched up against U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), another Republican considering a run for governor, Quinn would win narrowly by a 40- to 39-percent spread.

"Quinn's unpopularity puts the Republicans in a position where they could win despite the fact that none of them are very well known," said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.

An aide to Quinn defended his tenure and acknowledged his efforts at dealing with difficult subjects, like Medicaid reform, facility closures and tax increases, have not been popular -- even if they are in the best interests of state government.

"Gov. Quinn is doing what's right for Illinois and to make our state a better place," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. "After decades of fiscal mismanagement and two corrupt governors in a row, Illinois now has no-nonsense ethics laws, a shrinking unemployment rate and less discretionary spending than ever before because of Gov. Quinn.

"He's leading the state in its most difficult moment. What's required right now is a lot of hard decisions and bold leadership, and it's not easy and immediately popular but we're doing what's right," she said.

In a September poll released by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Quinn's approval rating stood at 42 percent, up a notch from a 35.5 percent approval rating recorded by the institute in October 2011.

Beyond measuring how Quinn might match up against potential Republican opponents, the Public Policy Polling survey also showed the governor is vulnerable in a primary, though no Democrat has stepped forward and openly declared he or she is planning to take on Quinn in 2014.

The firm found that Quinn would trail Bill Daley, the ex-U.S. Commerce Secretary and former Mayor Richard M. Daley's brother, by a 37- to 34-percent margin, and the spread would be even wider if Attorney General Lisa Madigan would take on Quinn, the firm said.

In a hypothetical matchup, Quinn would trailer her by a 64- to 20-percent deficit.

The firm also sized up the growing GOP field aiming to unseat Quinn.

Rutherford is on top of the pack with 19 percent of Republican respondents saying he is their first choice. Schock is second with 18 percent, and 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady pulled in 14 percent.

As the list goes on, Dillard has 12 percent; 8 percent favored departing U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and 7 percent chose businessman Bruce Rauner, an investor in Wrapports LLC, the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.

PPP Release IL 112912

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Chicago Sun-Times Library File Photo by Rich Hein


This Sunday, November 25th, marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Harold Washington, who served as Chicago's mayor from April 1983 until his death in 1987, just months after winning a second term. Washington was a larger-than-life man with a big smile to boot. But he was also a fighter as his battles against then-aldermen Ed Vrdolyak and the "Vrdolyak 29" proved during the infamous Council Wars. He was a polarizing figure but the city came together to mourn his tragic and sudden passing over Thanksgiving week in 1987.

Over the next few days, we'll look back on the last days of Washington's life by digging up stories from our archives and posting them here with photos from the Sun-Times' archive.

We've also created a timeline tracking some of Washington's major accomplishments as a politician and implementing photos and videos.

Finally, at the end of the week, some of the Sun-Times' writers will also share their memories of Harold for us.

So keep checking this space all week for more on Washington as we remember him 25 years after his passing.

romney.jpgAP Photo/Charles Dharapak

One of the storylines of the 2012 Presidential campaigns that will linger throughout history will be the Mitt Romney "47 Percent" video. Though Romney overcame the momentum that gave President Obama and made a tight contest of the race for a while, the video was one of several items that just gave Romney too high a mountain to overcome. And now it looks like the phrase "47 percent" may be forever etched next to Romney's name in an entirely different manner. As of earlier today, with vote reports - primarily absentee ballots - still trickling in, Romney stands at 47.84 percent of the popular vote. Some media outlets are still rounding up to 48 percent but as votes continue to trickle in and be tallied, there's a very good chance that Romney will remain in the 47 percent range and ensure that he will forever be linked to the phrase.

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By Andy Ihnatko

The software development community had never been entertained by its own equivalent of a "Fail" video before. And then, the Romney campaign commissioned ORCA, an ambitious software platform that was supposed to collect onsite voting information from tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide on election day, and send it to strategists at campaign HQ.

You know what I mean by a Fail video? I'm talking about those viral clips that usually begin with someone saying "Here, hold my beer and watch me do this" and ends with the camera rushing over to the spot on the side of the road where this guy is now rocking back and forth, clutching his groin in agony next to broken bits of his skateboard . . . as well as the railing that he apparently believed was made of a soft and spongy kind of iron.

These videos are entertaining because they document an absolutely unambiguous disaster that's being suffered by someone other than you. And they're genuinely fascinating, because . . . well, criminy, man! A higher lifeform wouldn't even consider making a jump from the bed of a moving flatbed truck onto a roadside trampoline. What the hell was this person even thinking?

There were so many fails about ORCA. The webapp was meant to connect tens of thousands of volunteers to a single central webserver This lone server was soon shut down by the campaign's ISP, because the sudden incoming flood of geographically-diverse hits appeared to be a denial-of-service attack. The server appeared to be inadequate for the flood of traffic anyway.

Romney campaign Digital Director Zac Moffatt talked to CNET about the traffic blast and amount of data being served:

"The primary issue was we beta-tested in a different environment than the Garden [Boston Garden, where the 800 campaign staffers were working]. There was so much data coming in -- 1200 records or more per minute -- it shut down the system for a time. Users were frustrated by lag, and some people dropped off and we experienced attrition as a result."

More election trends

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If you're just catching up after the election - and who could blame you for taking a break? - we've been swarmed with maps as to how the election broke down. There was the electoral map, the margin of victory, and even the makeup of red state voters and blue state voters. Now we have the above chart, via the Associated Press, which helps break down the demographics of the voters: men vs women, by race, and by age. It's an interesting set of data that underscores why Romney lost (alienating women and growing minorities).

Christine_Radogno.jpegIL Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

A downstate Republican who got into a physical tussle last year with a Democratic senator over utility legislation touted himself Friday as a potential replacement for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno following Tuesday's big GOP losses in the Legislature.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) confirmed his interest in ousting Radogno from her leadership post after she failed to stave off a whopping five-seat loss for Republicans in the state Senate.

"If we were a competitive college sports team with a record like this, somebody would have been fired already," McCarter told the Chicago Sun-Times.

McCarter's criticism came the same day that a conservative political action committee, Family PAC, circulated a letter to each Republican state senator, urging Radogno's ouster.

m-mccarter.jpeg"Frankly, I think nearly anyone in that caucus could do a far better job than Christine Radogno," said Paul Caprio, director of Family PAC, who praised both McCarter (pictured right) and state Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington).

Caprio faulted Radogno for not appropriating proper financial "support" to anti-abortion candidates who lost and said her support of civil unions and abortion rights is "out of the mainstream of the Senate caucus."

Radogno, whose caucus will drop in size from 24 to 19 members in January, defended her backing of all Republican Senate campaigns and dismissed Caprio as an "outlier" in a party that she said must be recalibrated after Tuesday's outcome. She also took direct aim at McCarter.

"I'm not sure what we need now is an in-your-face, confrontational, white, downstate male. I love our downstate guys. I have a great relationship with them, and I'm not playing a gender card," she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"What I'm saying, as a practical matter, is that we need to change our image. Fairly or not, we're perceived -- and these aren't my words, I've read it reported this way -- as being the party of angry white men, and that's not true by the way. The fact of the matter is perception is reality, and we need to deal with it," she said.

Caprio took issue with Radogno's implication that the party needs to rebrand itself so it again can carry appeal with moderate suburban women like herself.

"That's an insult to every woman voter who votes in this state. I'd like to find a woman who said the reason I voted for a Republican candidate is Christine Radogno," he said. "I wonder how many voters even know who the minority leadership is in Springfield, to tell you the truth. Playing this gender game is an excuse when you've lost every targeted Senate seat the Republicans had."

Radogno said it is unfair to hold her singularly accountable for what one top GOP strategist called a "bloodbath" that enabled Democrats to claim veto-proof majorities in the Legislature and win all of the contested congressional races in the suburbs.

"If everyone had done phenomenally well and this was just our result, that would be one thing. But our result was consistent with what happened across the state," she said.

McCarter, who took issue with Radogno's comments against "confrontational" downstate men, got into a shoving match on the Senate floor in 2011 with state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline), who came at McCarter after he questioned Jacobs' sponsorship of Commonwealth Edison-backed smart-grid legislation. Jacobs' father, former state Sen. Denny Jacobs (D-East Moline), is a utility industry lobbyist.

"Did I stand up when I saw something that wasn't ethical with regards to the smart-grid bill with Mike Jacobs? Of course, I did. But I wasn't the one who came across the aisle to take a swing at a legislator. I sat in my seat where I was supposed to be," McCarter said.

He also took issue with Radogno's implication that the GOP would be best suited with a suburban woman, since Republicans across the board didn't badly with women voters, particularly in the suburbs.

"If it's all about doing better with women, having a woman in charge didn't fix things Tuesday," he said.

Radogno, who has been legislative leader since 2009, said she is confident she has lined up the 10 votes necessary to hold onto her job.

McCarter, a small business owner who has been in the Senate for four years, said he doesn't know yet how many votes he might have.

Sun-Times graphics guru Max Rust has put together some tremendous images that give us a great visual breakdown of yesterday's presidential vote (Florida excepted). Below, the Electoral College votes broken down by states and number of votes.

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And below here is the breakdown of the candidates' respective margins of victories in 3,000 different counties across the nation, punctuating Obama's dominance in urban areas while Romney took a big chunk of the suburban and rural vote. [A full, high-res PDF version of the below map can be viewed here.]

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The Electoral College breakdown map, courtesy of C-SPAN.
Click to embiggen


By Neil Steinberg

If you thought Tuesday you were voting for the presidential candidate of your choice, think again. Due to a historic quirk in the creation of the United States -- some old operating code, as it were -- American voters do not chose the president directly, but rather select electors to the Electoral College who do the actual selecting of the president.

It's a cumbersome system. Each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress --the House of Representatives and Senate combined. Illinois, for example, has 20 - down one after the last census. They can't be the elected officials themselves, however. In 48 of the states, whoever wins the popular vote also wins all the electors -- only Nebraska and Maine have a proportional system where electoral votes are divided up between the winner and loser.

The system is a relic of an age when travel was difficult and counting ballots even more problematic than it is today. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that numerous regional contenders didn't divide the nation.

Thus whoever wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2013. But every four years there is talk of scrapping the Electoral College system, though it does have its defenders. Here are the main arguments, pro and con.

Reasons to get rid of it

  1. 1. A discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of electoral votes creates the possibility of losing the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Three presidents have been elected on electoral votes while failing to win a majority of voters -- Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 -- an outcome that undermines the faith Americans have in the legitimacy of the executive branch of government.
  2. 2. The Electoral College is inherently undemocratic, skewing significance toward smaller, more sparsely populated states. Delaware, with 900,000 residents, has three electoral votes, while Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has 34, which means from an electoral point of view, a vote in Delaware is more than twice as significant -- representing 1/300,000th of an electoral vote -- than a vote in Texas, representing 1/750,000 of an electoral vote.
  3. 3. By focusing on assembling 270 electoral votes, candidates ignore "safe" states such as Illinois, where there is no point in fighting for more votes once a majority is reached, since all the electoral votes are already assured. Thus the majority of states, nearly certain to fall one way or another, tend to get ignored in favor of a handful of "swing" states.
  4. 4. Even if the Electoral College works perfectly, it still introduces unnecessary delay into the system. Give the likelihood of immediate electronic voting in the foreseeable future, having to wait for some mysterious conclave to put its seal of approval on the will of the American people is unnecessary, not only wasting time, but wasting the money required to run the system.
  5. 5. There is the remote but real possibility of fraudulent electors -- members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote the way the results require that they vote. This has happened, and while it has never affected the outcome of a race, it could, and there is no reason to allow the possibility that one individual could perversely negate the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Reasons to keep it

  1. 1. America is change averse and would rather cling to an arcane system than switch to a new one, which might have flaws of its own. If we can't get rid of the penny, we can't scrap the Electoral College so why try? To do so, would involve a change in the constitution -- Article II, Section I lays out the details of the Electoral College -- and whatever benefit isn't worth the trouble of doing that.
  2. 2. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be encouraged to treat the country as a whole, and campaign through the national media, or in urban centers where the most people are concentrated. They would never spend time in a place like Ohio, where an evenly divided population means its electoral votes are up for grabs.
  3. 3. The Electoral College can soften the sting of tight races, which we often see. Thus a candidate who only wins by a tiny percentage of the popular vote can still have a considerable victory in the Electoral College, leading to a greater impression of consensus, which is good for subsequent governing.
  4. 4. The Electoral College helps direct power toward the states -- without it, authority would be even more centralized than it already is.
  5. 5. If the Electoral College wasn't scrapped after the debacle of the 2000 elections -- which saw one of those fraudulent electors -- it's never going to be.