On Election Night last week, I saw a Twitter post that described Illinois' electoral map as an island of blue surrounded by a sea of red--a reference to a blue Cook County and red pretty much everywhere else in Illinois. And that map has been in the making for several years.
Since 2004, the Democrats have held both U.S. Senate seats and, since 2006, all of Illinois' statewide offices (governor, lt. governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and comptroller). Illinois has also delivered for the Democrats in the three most recent presidential elections.
That picture changed dramatically last week. The Republicans took back President Barack Obama's old Senate seat and claimed the state treasurer and comptroller offices. And while the Democrats were able to hold on to the governor's mansion--thanks in large part to overwhelming support in Cook County, particularly among African American voters--a quick look at the four most recent gubernatorial elections shows that the state is trending red outside of Cook County.
In 1998, Glenn Poshard, a downstate Democrat, captured 43 counties in his failed run against Republican George Ryan. Despite running well in the southern half of Illinois, Poshard did not win any of the collar counties (DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties) surrounding Cook County and came up short statewide.
Democrat Rod Blagojevich won 35 counties in 2002 and 32 counties in 2006. Blagojevich won some downstate counties but claimed victory mostly due to strong showings in Cook County and some collar counties.
In 2010, Quinn won big in Cook County and kept the vote close enough in the collar counties to overcome a dismal performance downstate. However, Quinn won just two counties outside of Cook: Alexander and St. Clair.