A new poll of the Illinois Senate race shows a virtual dead heat between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk, with Giannoulias holding a slight lead.
The Rasmussen survey, conducted Wednesday, gives Giannoulias 40 percent of the vote, with Kirk getting 39 percent. The result represents Giannoulias' first lead in a Rasmussen poll since March 8, and Kirk's lowest score in the poll since the election cycle began.
"The Illinois Senate race remains a virtual tie, but Republican Mark Kirk's support appears to be trending down," writes Rasmussen. Kirk polled at a high of 46 percent in late April, and fell to 42 percent one month ago.
But perhaps the most telling result of the poll is that, after each candidate weathered a major scandal, voters are none too happy with either of them.
According to the pollster, at this point in the campaign, "the number of people with strong opinions [is] more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers." And in this race, the strong opinions are mostly negative.
Seven percent of voters viewed Kirk "very favorably," and an equal number felt very favorably for Giannoulias. But 20 percent regarded Kirk very unfavorably, compared with 21 percent for Giannoulias.
Kirk is coming off a difficult June, in which it was discovered that he had repeatedly exaggerated, embellished, or simply made up parts of his resume and stories from his military career. After weeks of dodging the media, he gave a speech apologizing for the statements and promising to come clean. But the scandal does not appear to be going away.
Meanwhile, Giannoulias is still struggling from the April collapse of his family's Broadway Bank, where he worked before his election as state treasurer. The bank's failure has been portrayed as the result of bad business decisions on Alexi's part, including loans to convicted felons and reputed mobsters.
Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones was not mentioned in the poll, though 9 percent of respondents chose "Other" as a candidate. Twelve percent were still undecided.
The margin of error in the poll is +/- 4.5 percent. 500 people were surveyed.