Earlier I said that the race for the Republican governorship may very well boil down to Oberweis v. Topinka. A private poll commissioned by Jim Oberweis, but conducted with professional and scrupulous accuracy, confirms that this is indeed how the primary is looking. Oberweis is gaining steadily on Topinka but the race will indeed be one for the history books in that is shows a clear-cut demarcation between liberal and conservative views, particularly on social policy.
Attitudinal polling, measuring the intensity of feeling, show Topinkas numbers soft with a leaning to her. The hard vote responses make the race extremely tight24.7 percent for Topinka and 20.7 percent for Oberweis.
An advance look at the poll conducted by WVE Research in December shows Judy Baar Topinka in the lead, helped by soft numbers, with 30.2 and Oberweis at 22.7. As 24.8 percent are undecided, Ron Gidwitz and State Sen. Bill Brady combined do not match the strength of Oberweis. Oberweis strength is shown clearly in comparison with a Tribune/WGN poll which had Topinka at 31 percent and Oberweis at 15 percent with 7 percent each for Brady and State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, 5 percent for DuPage states attorney Joe Birkett and 4 percent for Gidwitz.
Polling in the suburban 8th congressional district (Melissa Bean) two leading Republican candidates report their polling show likely GOP voters tied between Oberweis and Topinka.
Thus the lines of cleavage appear to be sharper in this primary than any other Republican battle since 1964 when the gubernatorial primary pitted Chuck Percy against State Treasurer Bill Scott. Percy was adjudged to be the liberal in that race and Scott the conservative, although in those pre-Roe v. Wade days Goldwater-style issues as distinct from Rockefeller issues framed the controversy. The tough primary, sparked with Scotts statewide newspaper ads proclaiming Mercy, Mr. Percy! got everyone riled up but the battle was good for the Illinois Republican party. Percy won the primary and lost to Otto Kerner but the residual effect of the Goldwater campaign sent many thousands of energetic workers to campaigns and ultimately both Percy and Scott headed factions that cooperated with each other. The Goldwater campaign in California produced Ronald Reagan as campaigner and he ran a hot primary for governor against liberal George Christopher with the party the beneficiary.
Traditionally, many Republicans bewail hot primaries, believing that the party should be pervaded with the peace of the tomb. Not so. Nor does the multiplicity of candidates evidently threaten that the liberal Topinka will be nominated. Gidwitz, even with Rauschenberger as his Lt. Governor, doesnt register much. Bradys highpoint may have been his victory at the Conservative Summit. Thus the race seems to boil down to Topinka and Oberweis. Indeed, perhaps if the GOP needs one thing it is a boiling hot primary between two sharply divergent points of viewthe social liberality of Topinka, the conservative position of Oberweiswhich will see many thousands of Republicans turn out. Oberweis seems to be a candidate who benefits from experience: hitting the trail with enthusiasm and making a smooth performance with his stump speech. He is, in fact, the kind of candidate many Republicans have sought for a long timeone who made his mark in business and as a startlingly accurate economic forecaster. Mainstream media notwithstanding, he may very well be not only an excellent candidate but the kind of governor the doctor ordered for deficit-ridden Illinois.