Illinois: Michigan Magic or Final Disaster for Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel (Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel (Associated Press)

Michigan Magic is still possible in Illinois for Bernie Sanders, but unless he can afford to spend two and a half of the final four and a half days of the campaign barnstorming the state, Hillary Clinton could win by 10% or more.

Senator Sanders has built small fires in the South Side of Chicago with solid black and Latino organizers and even down state with a shrewd visit last week to Southern Illinois University, but unless he can turn those and a modest blaze on the North Side into a raging, ten alarm fire between now and Tuesday, Clinton could manage the convincing victory north of the Mason-Dixon line she needs to declare final victory.

Using the same methods I used to correctly project an epic upset for Sanders in Michigan, including forecasting the outcome rightly in 89% of the counties, I have looked at the basics in nearly every county in Illinois. (I do not, however, have the same insight into Illinois politics that I do into Michigan, where I am registered to vote. I have lived in Chicago less than three years while having been married to a Michigander for fifteen years.)

Cook County (Chicago) and the “collar” of five high-population counties surrounding it is, of course, of incredible importance, but it is not everything in Illinois politics.

Sanders won in Michigan by making serious headway with black voters in Flint and Detroit while winning very big nearly everywhere outside the Saginaw, Flint, Detroit corridor. Smart, well-timed visits in the final week to Western Michigan and even a quick touchdown up north in Grand Traverse County meant the difference between a narrow loss and a narrow victory in Michigan. The same type of strategy can pay important dividends in Illinois, but there are five states in play instead of one this week. And the geographical spread in Illinois is fundamentally different than Michigan’s. The vast majority of Michigan’s African American population is in Detroit, 88% black. Illinois’ overall African American population is similar (very slightly higher) than Michigan’s but is more distributed with Chicago having a 37% African American population.

Adding an additional factor is the much more substantial Latino population in Illinois. Sanders’ enthusiastic support from Chuy Garcia, who had a great showing but ultimately lost to Rahm Emanuel in the last mayoralty election in Chicago, can go a long way, but it would go further if Sanders and Garcia were making multiple in-person appearances at events together.

Face to Face Politics Matters!
A quick look at Kent County in Michigan versus the four mid to large counties my model got wrong in Michigan (Saginaw, Macomb, Oakland, and Berrien) tells us almost everything we need to know. Each of these five counties, Kent included, has African American populations of 10% to 20%. My model, based primarily on weighted use of FiveThirtyEight’s Facebook Primary, predicted victory for Sanders in Saginaw, Oakland, Macomb, and Berrien, but he lost each of them by between one and six percent. While all but one of these four counties is clustered near Detroit and Flint, they did not receive the specific campaign attention with Bernie Sanders headlined events that Detroit and Flint did. In the Western half of the state, Berrien County did not receive a specific visit from Sanders and he lost there by five percent where the model predicts a victory. Kent County, with a 10.4% African American population, did get a specific visit from Bernie and went for him, as the model would predict, by a very large margin (30%).

Before a quick look at Chicago, then, here are the counties where a specific visit from Sanders could make a very big difference (of course, there is no way with the other states in play that he could visit them all, choices must be made):

Sangamon (Springfield) – currently too close to call for the model. Bernie has an advantage in the Facebook Primary, even adjusted by USPD, but it has a 12.4% African American population. Will it vote like Kent County or like Berrien? A visit to Illinois’ capital could mean the difference.

Peoria and Madison – these two counties are clustered close to the St. Louis region and a 1/2 day in St. Louis, 1/4 day in Chicago, 1/4 day in Peoria split, well-executed, could hit all the right marks. Peoria is 18.1% African American, 4.6% Latino, and has a population of 187,000. Madison is just 8.2% African American, but with a population of 269,000 and multiple universities, Sanders is underperforming what he could and should be according to my adjusted Facebook Primary model.

Collar Counties – the five, very high population counties surrounding Chicago are each large and have diverse factors in play where Sanders visiting or not visiting could make a big difference. It is impossible for Sanders to visit all of them. If I had to choose just one, a major event in Kane County (Aurora) featuring Sanders and Garcia would be most important. Kane’s population is 6.1% black and over 30% Latino.

Winnebago (Rockford) – On the Facebook Primary map, Winnebago looks a lot like Genesee (Flint), but it has a 12.9% African American population compared to just over 20% in Genesee. I would say the race is too close to call with a slight edge for Clinton at the moment.

I may update this post with more information in the next few days, but let me just say this quickly:

Sanders versus Clinton in Chicago is actually the undercard.

The main event is the people versus Rahm Emanuel with the election of Cook County State’s Attorney the epicenter of everything political in Chicago right now. Kim Foxx is the challenger and an ally of the most popular politician in Chicago, Toni Preckwinkle. Rahm Emanuel’s partner in crime in the contest is the incumbent Anita Alvarez. Hundreds of Chicago activists who don’t actually care much for either Sanders of Clinton have made this election their reason for existence since the end of street protests after the release of Chicago Police’s Laquan McDonald snuff video. How they, and the people they turn out, vote on Sanders versus Clinton (if either) is a massive wildcard. It looks like the Sanders campaign may have an event scheduled with Kim Foxx on election eve. If this event comes off and how it plays out is anyone’s guess.

If the election were being held today, I would make a call of Hillary Clinton by 10%. Bernie Sanders visit to Chicago State a few weeks ago was the right move, but it is not nealryenough on its own, especially with an very late start to a significant organizing ground game.

As a Sandernista, I am incredibly glad that the campaign has made such bullish moves in Florida. It’s time for some major Illinois love, however. Give North Carolina and Missouri a reasonable chunk of attention, in my opinion, make a huge investment in anti-trade deal commercials everywhere all throughout Ohio and spend a day plus a bit there, touchdown once more in the Sunshine State, but it is all out for Illinois or bust.


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