04/19/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Alexi Giannoulias Leading Mark Kirk, New Poll Shows

With the news of Sen. Evan Bayh's abrupt retirement on Monday, even more pressure was placed on Democrats to win President Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois. In a poll released this week, Alexi Giannoulias' lead over GOP candidate Mark Kirk is a good sign for an otherwise struggling Democratic party.

According to the Washington Post, a survey conducted by Michael Bocian of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed Giannoulias held a 49 percent to 45 percent edge over Kirk, which is consistent with October and July surveys. The poll shows Illinois with a more favorable opinion of Democrats in general as President Obama's approval ratings have taken a beating nationally:

Nearly six in ten (59 percent) of voters view Obama favorable while 31 percent see him in an unfavorable light. Among independents, a group with whom Democrats have lost considerable ground in the past year, a majority (51 percent) still regard Obama favorably while 35 percent do not.

Despite the new poll, Giannoulias has a tough campaign in front of him. Earlier this month, a Rasmussen poll contradicted the Bocian findings and showed Kirk in the lead. The Washington Post explains:

The truth of where the race stands probably lies somewhere in the middle with Giannoulias and Kirk running roughly even. How the candidates and campaigns perform then is where the race will be decided.

And, as Illinois residents know, polling before the gloves come off can mean very little.