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Poll: Rahm Emanuel in Trouble With Chicago Voters

Image: Poll: Rahm Emanuel in Trouble With Chicago Voters

Saturday, 10 May 2014 10:46 PM

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has no better than a 50-50 chance of getting re-elected in 2015, said a veteran pollster who canvassed voters for the Chicago Sun-Times and found cratering support for the sharp-tongued former Washington operative.

Only one in five Chicago voters said Emanuel is an improvement on the previous mayor, Richard M. Daley, and fewer than a third of voters said they would support him if the election were held today, according to a new poll conducted for the Sun-Times.

Emanuel's handling of school closings and a teacher's strike, coupled with a plague of gang violence and shootings in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, have hurt the mayor and given potential rivals an opening.

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“Right now, Rahm is not connecting. If he doesn’t do that, he’s gonna lose,” said the pollster, Michael McKeon.

The election is nine months away, on Feb. 24, and Emanuel is lapping would-be challengers in fundraising. But a $7 million campaign war chest and connections to influential Democrats — including the two U.S. presidents he worked for — won't necessarily sway voters.

McKeon said Emanuel, in his effort to promote Chicago as a global capital, might have lost sight of the city's local character. He said "a solid candidate who talks to the neighborhoods" will pose problems for Emanuel, especially in African-American and Hispanic communities where the mayor's support is in the single digits.

The poll contacted 511 registered Chicagoans who said they were “very likely” to vote next February. It also compared support for Emanuel to other potential candidates and found Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — "the challenger City Hall fears most," the Sun-Times reported — within striking distance: 26 percent to Emanuel's 29 percent, well inside the poll's 4.2 percent margin of error.

Emanuel’s standing with white voters and seniors remains strong. Black voters, who failed to turn out in significant numbers in 2011, have gone from indifferent to hostile and may be motivated to find a new mayor.

“The African-American community is galvanized on schools and crime,” said McKeon said.

A poll in March for the Sun-Times found that Emanuel's minority support was actually better than widely assumed and that "narratives floating around about Emaneul in trouble with African Americans across the board in the city may need some retooling,"

But two months later, the newspaper's bottom line is, "If the election were held today, Emanuel would find himself in a horse race."

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