AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is completely separate from any election judge duties that the author may have in Illinois during the 2018 midterm elections.
Anzalone Liszt Grove, a Democratic pollster, recently did a pre-election opinion poll for the American Heart Association, and they found Bruce Rauner trailing “Generic Democrat” by a large margin. The poll found that Rauner trails “Generic Democrat” by a 47-32 margin, with that margin being quite a ways outside of the poll’s margin of error.
You may be wondering why a group like the American Heart Association, which is a non-profit group that aims to promote cardiac care, hired a political opinion pollster. However, the reason why the American Heart Association had Anzalone Liszt Grove release the polling data in the first place is because they were primarily interested in opinion polling on a proposed sugary drink tax in Illinois, which is considerably more popular than Rauner is according to the poll.
As someone who served as a poll worker during the actual voting during the November 2016 elections in Illinois, I can tell you that “Generic Democrat” or its Republican counterpart, “Generic Republican”, never appear on ballots. That’s because “Generic Democrat” and “Generic Republican” are merely designations for an unnamed major-party nominee that are used by pre-election opinion pollsters, typically with one calendar year or more remaining until the election for the office in question. There are three Democrats currently running in a contested primary for Governor of Illinois with more candidates expected to enter, so that explains why you didn’t see declared candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Chris Kennedy or Ameya Pawar, or potential candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Daniel Biss or Andy Manar.
In Illinois, it is not that difficult for a Democratic nominee to outrun “Generic Democrat” in a statewide race. Although “Generic Democrat” in Illinois is not a real-life person, if it were, it would be someone with a ton of political connections to State House Speaker Mike Madigan and/or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both of which are thoroughly despised by voters outside of the City of Chicago and are despised by strongly left-wing voters in Chicago.
However, Rauner does have one ace-in-the-hole that unpopular politicians running for governor in other states don’t have, and that is the redistricting process that Illinois uses (outlined by Article IV, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution). If the General Assembly (Illinois’s bicameral state legislature) cannot pass a congressional and state legislative redistricting plan prior to a certain deadline with either the governor’s support or by overriding a gubernatorial veto before June 30 of a year following a federal Census, an eight-member commission presumably consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans (per the state constitution, the State House Speaker, State House Minority Leader, State Senate President, and State Senate Minority Leader each appoint two members) would draw the maps, unless the commission can’t agree on a map by August 10 of the year in question; in that case, a ninth member, whose name is drawn at random and can be of either of the two major political parties, is added to the commission. The winner of the 2018 gubernatorial election in Illinois will, provided that he or she remains in office in 2021, have the power to approve or veto any maps that the General Assembly passes. If the redistricting process goes to commission, there is likely a 50-50 chance that the commission would approve a Republican gerrymander that Rauner would want.
Bruce Rauner is extremely unpopular in Illinois for a large number of reasons (mainly because his union-busting policies would destroy Illinois’s economy and his unwillingness to negotiate with anybody who doesn’t strongly agree with him), but the general election is a long ways away.