President Barack Obama could lose his home state of Illinois in November, a new poll shows.
A poll conducted by Illinois-based pollster and political strategist Michael McKeon found Obama leading Republican Mitt Romney by 49 percent to 37 percent in Cook County, the home of Chicago. That puts him ahead by a far thinner margin than expected in a county he should be winning handsomely.
Cook is the most Democratic leaning county in the state. It is also the most populous.
Those numbers do not bode well for the president.
“He has to come out of Cook County with a big lead or he’s gonna have problems downstate,” explained McKeon, who said that based on the numbers he had seen, Obama polled only in the forties in downstate Illinois.
“It’s not like his policies are very popular downstate,” McKeon said. “He’s viewed as more part of Chicago than he is part of Illinois.”
According to the poll, which surveyed 629 registered voters last week, Obama’s problems are not in Chicago proper, but in suburban Cook County.
In the city of Chicago itself, he retains a 60-29 lead over Romney. But the Republican challenger leads 45-38 in the surrounding areas. Across the county as a whole, Romney leads 43-31 among independent voters, a crucial voting bloc. Romney also holds a 44-38 lead among male voters, and a 53-40 lead among white voters.
Illinois is not considered a swing state by any means; it is seen as solidly blue, and has been for the past two election cycles. But McKeon pointed to the 2010 gubernatorial race when Republican Bill Brady came within a single percentage point of now-Gov. Pat Quinn because Brady won most of the downstate counties. That is a feat Romney could repeat this year, leaving Obama vulnerable if he cannot expand his lead in Cook County.