A new poll of voters in the 13th Congressional District gives President Obama a 59 percent to 41 percent lead over Mitt Romney, but says that Republican congressional candidate Rodney Davis is ahead by about 5 percentage points.
The automated poll of 1,360 likely voters was taken Sunday by the Springfield-based polling firm We Ask America.
"I don't know what Obama did over in that 13th District, but whatever it is he seems to have ingratiated himself," said Gregg Durham, the chief operating officer of We Ask America. "Whatever it is he's doing pretty well, but it doesn't seem to be helping Dr. Gill."
Davis is ahead because, according to the poll, he is grabbing a larger share of the independent vote in the district. We Ask America says that almost a third of the voters in the sprawling district consider themselves independent.
Davis leads Gill among those independents, 55 percent to 38 percent, Durham said. Independent John Hartman of Edwardsville is getting just 6 percent of the independent vote, and 4 percent of the overall vote.
But Obama is leading in the Democratic-leaning district because of unusually sturdy support from Republicans, Durham said.
The president is getting 28 percent of the GOP vote in the district that runs from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Edwardsville on the southeast.
Conversely, among Democrats in the 13th, Romney is getting just 9 percent to 91 percent for Obama.
Among independents the district is running 52 percent Romney, 48 percent Obama.
"We've seen this elsewhere across the nation. I'll guarantee you what's leading that charge are women between the age of 45 and 64," Durham said of Obama's strength among Republicans. "That group is heavily, heavily in favor of Obama."
Durham said he doesn't know why Obama is so strong among Republican women in the district.
"All I'll say is that's where it is. I'm not smart enough to know, or I haven't asked the right question, I guess, to know is it because people approaching retirement age want Social Security to be there and believe maybe it won't be if (Romney) gets in. Or is it because among these women a lot of them are taking care of older parents and they worry about those things."
Nationally, though, an Oct. 24-28 poll by the Pew Research Center found that women over the age of 50 favor Romney, 48 percent to 46 percent. It's among younger women — ages 18 to 49 — where Obama had a 55 percent to 39 percent advantage.
Meanwhile, when the vote-counting in the 13th District is done next Tuesday, some pollster is going to be far off.
We Ask America and a Public Opinion Strategies poll taken Oct. 22 for the Davis campaign both give the Republican a lead in the neighborhood of 4 to 5 percent. But a poll taken for the Gill campaign gave him a 9 percentage-point lead.
Davis appears to have momentum, according to the We Ask America poll. Its last survey of the race, taken Oct. 7-9, had Davis up by 2 points.
"We'll see what happens. This is a snapshot in time. But I'd say it's looking pretty good for Davis," Durham said.
Independent spending. With less than a week to go until Election Day, so-called "independent" groups continue to pour money into the 13th District race.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put another $175,000 into the race on Tuesday (all for ads attacking Davis), while the House Majority PAC announced that it will get involved for the first time, spending $165,000 on ads accusing Davis of being an "insider."
The House Majority PAC ad buy hadn't been reported to the Federal Election Commission as of Tuesday afternoon, but Andy Stone of the group said it would show up in the next day or two.
With the newest ad buy, total spending by outside groups in the district will total at least $6.4 million.
Boehner's cost to Davis. The Oct. 18 appearance by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner at a Champaign fundraiser for congressional candidate Davis was not a freebie.
Organizers said that the $250 per person dinner attracted about 200 people, meaning a possible gross of around $50,000. But campaign disclosure records show that the National Republican Congressional Committee charged the Davis campaign $5,000 for travel to the event. Other related expenses were not included in the filing, so it won't be until after the election that the balance sheet for the Boehner appearance is available.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 3512-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.