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The Week Ahead: Spotlight Illinois

This week will be capped off Sunday with what should be an excellent Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints -- two teams with high-powered offenses and underrated defenses. Until then, our attention will be on Democrats' continued efforts at passing health care reform, a forthcoming jobs bill and President Obama's new budget blueprint. The most exciting moment, though, will be Tuesday night when Illinois primary election returns come in.

** White House: Today is budget day at the White House, and the administration's plan for fiscal 2011 will set the tone for the week. The $3.8 trillion budget is highlighted by the three-year discretionary spending freeze President Obama announced in last week's State of the Union address. Obama and administration officials will be highlighting the plan today. Also, Obama continues his State of the Union sales job with a "YouTube interview," where he takes questions submitted from users and selected by YouTube officials. Tuesday, Obama travels to New Hampshire for an event on the economy. Looking ahead, he'll meet with governors on Wednesday to talk energy policy, and speak at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday.

** Capitol Hill: The week on the Hill begins at 8 a.m. today, when the president's budget arrives. Meanwhile, health care remains the big question mark, as it's unclear if anyone knows what's going to happen -- if Democrats do attempt to pass a bill, how will they do it? Try reconciliation? Break it up in pieces? Or could House Democrats pass the Senate bill, even though Speaker Pelosi has said the votes aren't there? As the L.A. Times reports, conversations between Democratic leadership in both chambers is happening quietly, while the public focus is on creating jobs. We'll find out where unemployment is on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its January report.

The House will also vote this week on statutory PAYGO legislation, which the Senate passed on a party-line vote last week. The bill requires any new spending to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

** Politics: Tuesday is Election Day in Illinois! It's the official start to the 2010 midterm elections, and it couldn't come any sooner. We were spoiled with the exciting Massachusetts special election two weeks ago, but the primaries for House, Senate, and governor in Illinois mark the beginning of what looks like it will be an eventful year. To see all the candidates running in Illinois, click here.

Of the House primaries, there should be some drama in a few districts, including the 10th, which Republican Mark Kirk is vacating to run for Senate. In the 14th, former House speaker Dennis Hastert's son, Ethan, faces a GOP primary in his quest to win his father's seat, which has been held by Democrat Bill Foster for a term-and-a-half. Also up for grabs this year is Obama's former Senate seat and the governor's race, still stained from the memory of Rod Blagojevich -- with competitive primaries in both races.

And don't forget, campaign finance reports were due last night. The latest reports will show how much money candidates have to begin the year, and will indicate which incumbents are vulnerable and which challengers have a chance.

** Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 49.3 / Disapprove 46.3 (+3.0)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 26.3 / Disapprove 66.3 (-40.0)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +3.2

** In Case You Missed It: Obama had two straight days of favorable national TV time. On Friday, Obama stood before the House GOP Conference at their annual retreat in Baltimore and answered questions for more than an hour. The Q-and-A was televised live and covered by all the nightly news programs. By Saturday, Organizing for America had emailed its millions-strong list of supporters with a link to the entire session, which can be found here.

In a far less political appearance, Obama and Vice President Biden attended Saturday's Georgetown-Duke basketball game at Verizon Center in downtown D.C. (Georgetown won!) In the second half, Obama sat with the play-by-play announcers for a brief period of time and even analyzed one of the plays -- which drew rave reviews from the broadcasters. You can see video of that here.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli