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Ratings Change: Kirk Race Downgraded to Leans Democratic

Illinois Republican remains the most vulnerable senator in the country

Illinois Sen. Mark S. Kirk faces long re-election odds in a state that has not selected a Republican for the Senate in an election year since 1972. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nearly a year ago, we moved Republican Mark S. Kirk from Tossup to Tilts Democratic . Over the past 12 months, there is little evidence that things have gotten any better for the senator and in fact the political climate may be getting much worse, prompting another ratings change.  

The Kirk campaign released a poll, conducted March 30-31, which showed the senator trailing Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, 43-40 percent, in a general election ballot test.  

The senator’s advocates point out the close margin, Kirk’s overperformance in the city of Chicago and among Hispanic voters, his positive image among Democrats, and room to grow among Republicans downstate.  

[Related: For Rivals Duckworth and Kirk, Campaign Requires Extra Planning] But while it showed Kirk within striking distance, an incumbent at 40 percent does not inspire confidence, particularly a Republican running for re-election in a Democratic state.  

The last time Republicans won an Illinois Senate race in a presidential year was Charles Percy’s re-election in 1972, when Republican President Richard Nixon won the state 59-41 percent over George McGovern. Kirk will not be as fortunate with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.  

[Related: Kirk Urges Republicans to Meet with Garland] Duckworth isn’t the perfect candidate and Kirk might be able to outperform the top of the ticket, but not likely at the level necessary to win this year. And, quite frankly, no one outside of Kirk’s closest allies believes he is going to win, including many Republicans. We’re changing our rating from Tilts Democratic to Lean Democratic.  

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