Duckworth leads Kirk in Senate race poll

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Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) leads Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkSenate panel approves 0M for international climate fund Senator calls for pause in accepting Syrian refugees after Istanbul attack Overnight Healthcare: Blame game over Zika funding MORE (R-Ill.) by 6 points in a new polling matchup of what’s expected to be one of the tightest Senate races of the 2016 cycle.

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Duckworth leads the one-term senator and former House member by a margin of 42 percent to 36 percent in a new poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. The numbers show a sharp drop among Kirk’s unfavorable ratings, up to 42 percent now compared to 32 percent in February. 

Illinoisans who are familiar with Duckworth hold a favorable view of her, with her favorable/unfavorable rating at 34 percent to 23 percent. But a plurality of voters haven’t yet formed an opinion on her, leaving significant room for either candidate to shape the race.

The poll also shows Duckworth holding a substantial lead over her Democratic primary rival, former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp — by a margin of 59 percent to 10 percent. Duckworth is seen as the establishment Democrats’ ideal candidate, having won an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Zopp, who is black, panned that decision as showing “total insensitivity to Chicago, African American women and the democratic process."

Despite Zopp’s role at the helm of the Urban League, a civic organization that promotes “economic, education and social progress for African Americans,” Duckworth holds a 57 percent to 13 percent edge with black voters, according to the poll.

Even with the election more than a year away, Duckworth and Kirk have already had their share of dustups. She slammed Kirk for his comments referring to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as a “bro with no ho” because he running for president as a bachelor.

The campaign doubled down with ads last week that mocked Kirk’s “outrageous statements” including comparing the Iran nuclear deal to Europe’s appeasement of Hitler.  

Kirk’s team fired back with an ad late last week, first reported by RealClearPolitics, that centered on a whistleblower trial related to Duckworth's time as the director of Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. That ad pans her “desperate and negative attack ads” and calls her “just another Chicago politician headed for trial.”

Illinois regularly backs the Democratic presidential candidate in presidential years, so Democrats are hopeful that the trend will continue and help boost Duckworth’s chances at the polls. The PPP poll found that Clinton holds a substantial lead against her Republican presidential rivals, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush running the closest at a 9-point deficit. 

For the Republican nomination, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) leads with 23 percent of the vote, followed closely by Donald Trump’s 18 percent. Bush is in third with 11 percent.

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