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Gut Check Time for Alexi

  Tough times for the Alexi Giannoulias U.S. Senate campaign just got tougher.

  Independent Public Policy Polling released a survey yesterday indicating that Republican Mark Kirk has pulled ahead of the Illinois Treasurer 37-33%.  PPP called 591 voters around the state April 1-5.  The margin of error is +/- 4%.

   Just two months ago, the pollster reported Giannoulias had an eight point lead.  But since early February, Congressman Kirk and the Illinois Republican Party have unleashed a relentless internet/e-mail campaign focused on the democrat's family-owned Broadway Bank where Giannoulias was chief loan officer before his statewide election in 2006.   Not only is the bank on the verge of failure because of bad commercial real estate loans, Kirk and his surrogates allege Giannoulias authorized other loans to organized crime figures and convicted felons. 

  Earlier this month, the Giannoulias braintrust tried to tamp down the bank stories with a "controlled burn" strategy (See Precinct7, March 4, 2010) but one week later, a new fire erupted with the arrest of  restauranteur Nick Giannis, Giannoulias' largest non-family campaign contributor (see Monday's post). 

  Also, expect the democrat's poll numbers to worsen with the likely federal shutdown of Broadway Bank later this month. 

   So far, as Giannoulias' favorables decline, the PPP survey indicates the percentage of "undecideds" in the electorate appears to be growing.  In other words, the poll suggests voters in this overwhelmingly "blue" state might be deserting Giannoulias but are not immediately moving into Kirk's column.

  No one wants to go on the record now, but some powerful Illinois democrats are whispering doubts about the wounded Giannoulias' ability to survive so many political cuts.  And they wonder if there are more Nick Giannises out there who could further undermine the party's chance to keep President Barack Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.  They look at the calendar and note that the general election is still seven months away and that Kirk does not appear to have significant traction among independent voters and the disillusioned democrats taking a pass on Alexi.

  And another question:  How is all of this affecting Giannoulias' ability to raise money?

  You heard it here first: the independent and internal polling that measures this race in mid-May, presumably after the Broadway Bank fails, will be critical to what happens on the Democratic side of the 2010 Illinois U.S. Senate campaign.

  If Alexi Giannoulias' numbers have fallen too far, he can expect some phone calls from Washington.




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