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Kirk Dillard starting to trend up in Illinois governor race

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The man who came within 193 votes of being the 2010 GOP nominee for Illinois governor is starting to look like he may be the alternative candidate to Bruce Rauner this year. In a poll that was conducted last night, Illinois State Senator Kirk Dillard moved into 2nd place and technically within reach of Rauner – but he will need a lot of things to go his way.

The Illinois Manufacturer’s Association’s polling operation “We Ask America” conducted the survey that showed of the 1,178 likely GOP voters contacted, 36 percent supported Rauner, 17 percent supported Dillard, 13 percent supported State Senator Bill Brady and seven percent supported Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. The survey had a margin of error of three percent, but the most interesting number is that 27 percent of those polled were still undecided.

Dillard is trending up. He is up nine additional points since a previous “We Ask America” poll was conducted on February 13th, which includes a four point jump since February 18th. He is definitely taking voter support from Rutherford and may be benefiting from the anti-Rauner ads still hitting the airwaves across the state and from endorsements, possibly Dillard’s biggest strength in this election cycle. For example, he received the endorsement of the Illinois Education Association (IEA) last week, which included a much-needed $50,000 donation, and received the endorsement of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA) today. IEA has 130,000 members and the IRTA has 35,000 members and a modest political action committee (PAC).

If Rauner has plateaued and Dillard separates himself as the clear alternative, the two-person race would come down to money versus endorsements/air attack versus ground attack. Once again, Rauner donated another $1.3 million to his campaign this week, increasing his already tremendous funding advantage which is more than the other three candidates combined so far. But, in addition to the IEA and IRTA endorsements, Dillard supporters to-date include former Illinois Governors Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson, 10 state senators, 15 state representatives and more than 70 county/municipal officials.

There are a few more debates scheduled and a lot more newspaper and public official endorsements expected before the March 18th Primary Election. But, there are three very important questions that will be keys to a Dillard come-from-behind win:

1) Can Dillard continue to score endorsements?

2) Can Dillard crush Rauner in the remaining debates? And

3) Do voters even care anymore about campaign aspects like questions 1 and 2?

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