New poll shows Lipinski leading in March 17 Congressional battle

New poll shows Lipinski leading in March 17 Congressional battle
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New poll shows Lipinski leading in March 17 Congressional battle

A recent poll by a national polling company shows Dan Lipinski leading challenger Marie Newman in the March 17 Democratic Primary election, and two other candidates, Rush Darwish and Charles Hughes trailing far behind with 2 percent and 1 percent of the vote respectively.

By Ray Hanania

A new poll released by the campaign of Congressman Dan Lipinski shows him leading in the 3rd Congressional District in his bid to win the Democratic Party’s nomination and hold his congressional seat. Lipinski, who has held the office since being appointed to succeed his father Bill Lipinski in 2005, is facing challenges from progressive Democrat Marie Newman, who came with in 2,200 votes of unseating the conservative “Reagan Democrat.”

The poll was conducted by the political media consulting firm Expedition Strategies, which has offices in Colorado, Alabama, Virginia and Washington D.C. where they manage a wide range of clients, and compared Lipinski to Newman and newcomers Rush Darwish and Charles Hughes.

But the poll may have some flaws, inaccurately weighing the significant Arab and Muslim vote that exists in the 3rd Congressional District which includes parts of Chicago including Lipinski’s home base of the powerful 23rd Ward and suburbs from Burbank to Orland and Tinley Park. More than 10,000 Arab American and Muslim Americans are registered there to vote and have voted in past elections. Most Arab American voters are expected to support Darwish because of Lipinski’s failures to address Arab American and Muslim political concerns.

Congressman Dan Lipinski

Congressman Dan Lipinski

The Expedition Strategies poll, released by the Lipinski campaign, shows Lipinski leading with 47 percent of the vote based on 500 total interviews with voters in the district conducted between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9, 2020. Newman received only 25 percent of the vote, Darwish only 2 percent and Hughes only one percent.

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But the poll shows that there are more than 26 percent who are undecided in the race, and the poll has a Plus or Minus margin of error of 4 percent.

Although polls are little more than a barometer of an election at any given time, Lipinski’s candidacy is bolstered by Darwish’s entrance into the race, drawing away Arab and Muslim voters who mostly voted for Newman in the 2018 Democratic Primary election.

This year’s presidential primary is on March 17, 2020. The General Election is Nov. 3, 2020. But the district is so heavily Democratic that no Republican has a chance of winning the district against Lipinski, whose family has held the congressional seat with solid overwhelming margins for Democrats since his first election victory over Democratic incumbent John Fary in March 1983. Whomever wins the Democratic Primary election will almost certainly win the General Election. The Democratic Primary contest is the race that counts.

Although Newman came within 2,200 votes in the 2018 Democratic Primary election which saw a total of 95,205 votes cast in that election, the election came during the traditional “opposition party surge” that follows two years after a President wins the White House. Traditionally, Republicans take the Congress and the Senate following a Democratic Presidential win, while Democrats take the Congress and Senate following a Republican presidential win. In 2018, Democrats managed to only win the House while falling short of the Senate.

Marie Newman, candidate for the 3rd District

Marie Newman, candidate for the 3rd District

Newman has been a powerful contender, but her primary weakness is that she is more popular outside of the 3rd Congressional District than in the 3rd Congressional District. She has received the endorsement of many mainstream progressive Democrats such as former Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Jan Shakowsky in 2018. Shakowsky has endorsed Newman again this year.

But, Lipinski leads in campaign finance donations. According to campaign finance disclosure documents, Lipinski has more than $1 million including $425,000 spend so far in this election. Marie Newman has over $900,000 including $368,000 spent on this election. Rush Darwish has raised $423,000 including $105,000 spent in this election. (Click here to view campaign finance data for all three candidates.)

Lipinski has been criticized for his conservative leanings, although he is a critic of Republican President Donald Trump. But the 3rd District, while Democratic, has always been a conservative-leaning district where many of the Democratic voters are actually “Reagan Democrats.” Reagan Democrats are Democrats who lean towards the Republican Party on the national level but support Democratic candidates in local races, including in Cook County where the Republican Party is almost non-existent and is fast disappearing.

Despite that heavy traditional Democratic and conservative Democratic base, the district handed Neo-Nazi Holocaust denier Art Jones more than 57,000 votes in the November 2018 election after Lipinski won the Democratic nomination by a slim margin over Newman. The support for neo-Nazis is a troubling phenomena that has plagued the Southwest and West suburbs of Cook County for years, although some could make the argument that censorship of Jones by the media played a large part in giving Jones so many votes. Lipinski defeated Jones winning more than 163,000 votes.

The censorship of individuals who are perceived as embracing extremist views, such as Jone’s anti-Semitism, has resulted in preventing many voters from knowing facts about the candidates like Jones.

Rush Darwish takes questions at his campaign kickoff on June 15, 2019 in his bid for the 3rd District Congressional seat. Photo courtesy of Rush Darwish Facebook Page

Rush Darwish takes questions at his campaign kickoff on June 15, 2019 in his bid for the 3rd District Congressional seat. Photo courtesy of Rush Darwish Facebook Page

Darwish has also been targeted by the mainstream news media which has been traditionally biased against Arab American and Muslim views. The majority of Arabs in the 3rd District are Palestinian and the next largest Arab constituency is Jordanian. But the majority of the Arabs in the 3rd District are not Muslim, which is the perception, but rather Christian. Many Christian Palestinians supported Lipinski because of his conservative family value platform. A Chicago Sun-Times attack column inaccurately portrayed Darwish as being “anti-Semitic,” twisting and distorting his comments about Israel and the Middle East, including taking out-of-context a comment Darwish made during a radio show in which this writer was a panelist.

Darwish is considered a moderate Palestinian American activist who, in the past, has supported the Two-State Solution and peace based on compromise. And, he has spoken out publicly against anti-Semitism, despite the distortions of the Sun-Times writer. Click here to read my column criticizing the Sun-Times for their biased coverage of this election.

The Sun-Times endorsed Newman in 2018 and has been a leading critic of Lipinski since he took office in 2005. They see Darwish as an obstacle.

When analyzing the 26 percent of the undecided voters in the poll by Expedition Strategies, you have to take into consideration that most of those voters will probably go to the challengers, with most going to Newman. But all Lipinski needs to win is a small segment of that undecided voting block to win a plurality or possibly even 50 percent of the vote in March. (In the primary, the candidate with the highest vote percentage receives the Party nomination.)

The other factor is that nearly every poll taken prior to the November 2016 election showed Trump losing the election, a conclusion driven by mainstream news media bias and prejudices. Darwish will probably do better and maybe break the 10 percent voter percentage. But Darwish’s campaign isn’t as effective as it could be, based on my 45 years of covering Chicagoland politics and elections.

Newman, on the other hand, has run a powerful campaign. But, losing votes to Darwish almost certainly dooms her chances of bridging the 2,200 votes which kept her from winning the March 2018 election.

Another factor is that Arab and Muslim Americans come from societies where free speech is prohibited and community debate is banned, especially debate focused on the politics of the countries from where they immigrated. Most Arab American voters are turned off by the extremist voices that dominate the Arab American community. Small groups of extremists have been able to silence the larger moderate Arab constituencies through bullying and intimidation. Worse is that the mainstream American news media is biased and often portrays Arabs as a monolithic block with no diversity not realizing — or not caring — that Arab Americans are similar to all Americans and have a wide range of views on all topics including on the Middle East.

Ray Hanania

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