Audio: Giannoulias stumped on what federal spending he would have opposed

It’s not easy posing as a fiscal conservative these days.  Alexi Giannoulias tried it with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, but the ruse didn’t last long.  Claiming that spending was out of control in Washington, Giannoulias said that he would oppose the spending spree.  Fine, said the editors; which bill would you have opposed?  Giannoulias ended up with egg on his face in the following exchange:

Giannoulias immediately seizes on TARP as the answer to the question — and then winds up admitting he’d have voted for it too, just like Mark Kirk did in the House. The Democrat insists that he would have demanded changes to increase accountability, but would have voted for it whether the bill changed or not. Apparently the only federal spending Giannoulias opposes over the last four years of Democratic control is … the bill he would have backed.

Perhaps that explains why Giannoulias has begun to fade a bit in the polls.  Today’s Rasmussen survey shows Kirk moving out to a four-point lead, 45/41:

The Illinois race for U.S. Senate between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is still neck-and-neck.

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Kirk picking up 45% of the vote, while Giannoulias earns 41% support. Four percent (4%) back Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones. Another five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

This race will almost certainly go to the wire.  Both sides have about the same solidity to their votes, but Kirk has a few advantages.  Independents are breaking his way, 51/29 with leaners.  He holds more of his own party (87/6) than Giannoulias (72/13).  His favorables are a little better, too, with a 48/45, while Giannoulias is underwater at 42/50.  Few people win elections with a 50% unfavorable rating, and it’s getting a little late in the day to improve that.

Giannoulias also faces an uphill battle on the issues.  A solid majority opposes the federal health-insurance mandate, 54/41, although a slight plurality opposes a statewide referendum on the issue.  A majority favors either a hiring freeze in the federal government or a 10% across-the-board reduction; only a third favor allowing the federal government to hire more workers if deemed necessary.  And while Barack Obama still has a slightly favorable job approval rating at 52/47, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has a dismal 37/62.

Kirk may not be setting the world on fire in Illinois, but he may not need to do so to beat Giannoulias.

Update: Guy Benson, who recently escaped Illinois to become Townhall’s political editor in Washington, wonders whether Alexi was just unhappy that TARP didn’t bail out the family bank.