The Illinois Senate race continues to be one of the closest in the country with Mark Kirk leading Alexi Giannoulias 42-40 on PPP's newest poll of the race, representing a small tightening since PPP found Kirk with a 4 point advantage three weeks ago.
You would assume that for Mark Kirk to be running ahead as Republican in Illinois that he would be winning a good amount of crossover support from Democrats and that he would have a massive lead with independents. In reality he is doing neither of those things. He's only getting 10% of the Democratic vote, about average for GOP candidates across the country this year. And he has just a 9 point advantage with independents, below average for what Republican Senate candidates across the country are getting. To put it into perspective when the GOP won another Senate seat this year in a state Obama won by 25 points- Massachusetts- their nominee took independent voters by a 32 point margin.
So how is Kirk ahead if he's not doing those things? The final outcome in Illinois, perhaps more so than any other state in the country, is going to be determined by the ability of Democrats to mobilize their base in these final two weeks. We find that likely voters there only voted for Barack Obama by a 9 point margin in 2008, compared to his actual 25 point victory in the state. If what Democrats are dealing with on a national basis is an enthusiasm gap then what they're facing in Illinois could perhaps be better described as an enthusiasm canyon. The only state where we see a bigger disparity between who voted in 2008 and who's planning to vote this year is Obama's native Hawaii.
The competitiveness of this race is completely predicated on paltry Democratic turnout. If that proves to be the case it's about 50-50 as to who will win on election day with perhaps a small advantage for Kirk. If Democratic turnout exceeds current expectations there's almost no doubt Giannoulias ends up as the winner.
Full results here