WASHINGTON -- Independent and undecided voters in Illinois -- who may make the difference in the closely contested Senate contest between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias -- say in a new poll that President Obama's backing of a candidate may not influence them.
The automated phone survey of Obama's coattails in his adopted home state by Public Policy Polling included 576 likely Illinois voters who were called Aug. 14 and 15, with a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.
Most polls show the Kirk-Giannoulias race tied. Obama stumped for Giannoulias on Aug. 9, when he headlined a fund-raiser for him in Chicago.
The overall finding: Among those undecided in the Illinois Senate race, 21 percent said an Obama endorsement would be positive, while 33 percent said it would not.
And when not asked about any specific race, 40 percent of those polled said Obama's endorsement of a candidate would make them less likely to back that contender, with 26 percent saying more likely, and 34 percent saying it does not matter to them.
A closer look at the numbers, however, shows that the main problem Obama may have in Illinois is with independents whom the Kirk and Giannoulias campaigns will be fighting over.
Of the independents polled, 19 percent said an Obama endorsement for a candidate would make it more likely to secure their vote, to 38 percent who said less likely and 44 percent who said it did not matter.
Among Republicans, 83 percent said an Obama endorsement would make it less likely to have an impact on their decision; a mere 2 percent said it would, and 15 percent said it did not matter.
Among Democrats, only 9 percent said Obama's backing would make it less likely to have an impact, to 49 percent who said it would and 42 percent who said it would make no difference.
Democratic consultant Robert Creamer, a veteran of many Illinois contests, said, "I don't know of any Democrat in Illinois who wouldn't love to have the president of the United States come in and campaign for them."
Asked about the Obama impact, Amber Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said, "President Obama is not on the ballot in Illinois this November, and voters will choose between a principled leader in Mark Kirk, who has served our nation honorably and fought to rein in Washington spending, or a failed mob banker in Alexi Giannoulias, whose reckless loans and sheer ineptitude led to the government takeover of his family's bank and the loss of millions of dollars from the state's college fund."
Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said, "Illinois voters face a stark choice in November, Alexi Giannoulias and President Obama, who support eliminating corporate excess and greed and reforming Wall Street, while Congressman Kirk is a pig at the Wall Street trough, takes their money and votes their way every single time."