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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Illinois

Biden Visit Shines Welcome Spotlight On Giannoulias

By Kyle Trygstad

Vice President Biden is heading to Chicago Monday amidst an uncomfortable time in Illinois politics. Former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich is on trial on corruption charges, and new polling shows voters in the Democratic leaning state unexcited about both parties' ticket-topping candidates.

Still, the White House clearly sees an opportunity to hold on to President Obama's former Senate seat. As the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet noted, Biden's far from the only White House attaché trekking to Illinois this month to assist Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias with fundraising -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits today, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina on Saturday and 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe on June 30.

Republican Mark Kirk continues to struggle with ongoing revelations of embellishing his military resume and politicking while on active duty that have hurt him in the polls. Until this week, Kirk had led Giannoulias in the last five public polls. But a recent survey from the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling finds the two in a statistical tie, with Giannoulias up 1 point.

Since April, Kirk's unfavorable rating has risen 8 points, while the North Shore congressman's favorable rating stayed stagnant. But Giannoulias, who's facing his own trouble with the failing of his family-owned bank, has yet to capitalize. According to the poll, he leads with 31 percent to Kirk's 30 percent, with Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones taking 14 percent and a quarter of voters undecided.

"Voters in Illinois are tuning into a soap opera not an election," said PPP president Dean Debnam "The Senate election is about scandals not issues. The candidate who can turn the focus of the race from their personal issues to the real issues will have the best chance of winning over undecideds."

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn, who stepped in following Blagojevich's impeachment and won a close and competitive primary against Dan Hynes, has yet to excite the base. In fact, PPP found that 37 percent of Democrats disapprove of the job he's doing as governor and a quarter have no opinion.

"Illinois Democrats seem to be disenchanted by both of the party's leading candidates this year, which could end up aiding Republicans across the ticket," said Debnam. "For Quinn to win this race he needs to reinstate voters' confidence in his ability to be a state administrator but ultimately, and more importantly, reunite Illinois Democrats."

Luckily for Quinn, Republican Bill Brady is coming off a tight primary as well and isn't polling much better. Brady leads 34 percent to 30 percent for Quinn, with Green Party candidate Rich Whitney taking 9 percent and 27 percent undecided.

As for the Senate race, Biden, who's been the leading campaign surrogate for the White House so far, should be a shot in the arm for Giannoulias next week. Not only is it a clear sign that the White House is firmly behind his candidacy, but his visit could also help open the gates to future fundraising as well.

"We are excited to have the Vice President and other top surrogates come out to Illinois and campaign with Alexi, and we welcome their support," Giannoulias spokesman Matt McGrath told RCP. "Their presence signifies the importance of this race, and will further serve to remind Illinois voters that as President Obama is working to clean up the mess he inherited -- an economy on the brink of ruin, and record unemployment -- Congressman Kirk has stood in the way every time."

Dem Support For Giannoulias So Far Unwavering

State and national Democrats are standing behind their man in Illinois, despite what some believed could be disastrous for Alexi Giannoulias' Senate campaign -- the state treasurer's family-owned bank was seized by federal regulators last week. The FDIC calculates the bank's failure comes at a hefty price tag of $394 million.

Speaking in Quincy, Ill., Wednesday, President Obama offered Giannoulias, who was in attendance, a special shout-out, calling him the "treasurer and soon-to-be senator." The remark was unexpected after a White House spokesman had earlier suggested that it would not be "appropriate" for the president to do so at an official event.

It was also noteworthy because rumors have circulated in both state and national political circles that party support for Giannoulias could be waning, and perhaps there could be movement toward finding a different nominee. But recently, most evidence is to the contrary.

"The rumors emanate mostly from Republicans and from the 202 area code," said Illinois Democratic Party spokesman Steve Brown. "No Democrats in Illinois or in the state party are talking about that."

One person in Washington talking about it is Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He hinted to reporters Thursday morning that it looked like Democrats replacing Giannoulias on the ticket was a real possibility.

"I just hope that the Democrats in Illinois respect the rights of Democratic primary voters to select their nominee, and we don't see some backroom shenanigans that this White House has been very active in -- in trying to force him out of the race and disrespect the vote of Democratic primary voters there," Cornyn said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

"I just know that Giannoulias is a flawed candidate and they're realizing it -- and I think they're worried," he added.

The Chicago Tribune reported that at the Quincy event Wednesday, Giannoulias was also summoned backstage prior to Obama's remarks for what White House adviser David Axelrod called "catching up." And following the president's remarks, Obama gave Giannoulias a hug.

A public embrace from the president isn't necessarily a good thing for, say, a Republican governor in Florida, but it's a welcome sign of support for this Illinois Democrat, whom the White House needs to keep Obama's former seat blue.

Kirk Outraises Giannoulias By $1M In 1stQ

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk (R) raised $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2010, $1 million more than his Democratic Senate opponent, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Kirk reports raising a total of $6.6 million to date, with $3 million remaining in the bank. His cash-on-hand total gives the five-term congressman a financial advantage heading into the final seven months of the campaign.

Giannoulias announced $1.2 million in his campaign account as of the end of March. In releasing his fundraising total, Giannoulias took a shot at the Kirk campaign's donors.

"Congressman Mark Kirk has taken millions from corporate special interests and federal lobbyists" he said in a press release. "I am proud of our campaign's historic pledge not to take money from these corporate special interests."

Kirk took a shot of his own, saying the state is ready to move on from several embarrassing situations regarding Democratic lawmakers -- hinting that Giannoulias would be more of the same.

"After Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris, Illinois voters are looking for clean government and they will have a clear choice in the coming election," he said.

In other Senate fundraising news:
**New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes announced raising $665,000 in the first quarter, with $1.66 million on hand. Two Republican businessmen, Bill Binnie and Jim Bender, previously announced raising $400,000 and $100,000 respectively, though their FEC reports will show higher amounts as both partially self-fund their campaigns.

**California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina (R) announced raising $1.7 million in the first quarter, with $2.8 million on hand. Since the start of her campaign, Fiorina has raised $2.78 million and loaned her campaign $2.5 million. Her primary opponent, former Rep. Tom Campbell, raised $1.6 million. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) announced raising $2.4 million in the first quarter, with $8.7 million on hand.

**Ohio Senate candidate Rob Portman (R) raised $2.35 million in the first quarter and $7.6 million on hand. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) and Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner (D) have yet to announce their totals.

**Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) announced raising $1.34 million in the first quarter and has nearly $4.3 million on hand. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) is considering running against Feingold, with polls showing the race would be competitive.

Obama, Giannoulias To Chat Today

President Obama has not yet spoken with Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, now the Democratic nominee seeking the president's former Senate seat. A spokesman for the Giannoulias camp says that the White House did send its congratulations last night via a text message, and promised that the commander in chief would be calling today. A White House spokesman confirms that Obama will likely call Giannoulias today.

Of course, Giannoulias was not the Chicago-heavy administration's preference to be the Senate nominee. Publicly they remained neutral, but state Attorney General Lisa Madigan was courted by administration officials. Here's what Robert Gibbs had to say last June:

"The president has a very long relationship with the attorney general dating back to their time in the state Senate, and has enormous respect for what she accomplished there and as attorney general. I think she'd be a terrific candidate. But we're not going to get involved in picking that candidate."

Illinois Senate Primaries: More Than Picking a Candidate

The Senate Democratic primary in Illinois today carries more weight than a single election. The winner will be running to salvage a piece of the Obama presidential legacy -- if a Republican wins the seat in November, Barack Obama would become the first senator-turned-president to lose his former seat to the opposite party.

Of course, there isn't much precedent for this. In 2008, Obama became just the third sitting senator elected president, following John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Warren G. Harding in 1920. Kennedy was replaced by the appointed Benjamin Smith, a Democrat, who safeguarded the seat until Edward M. Kennedy came of age in 1962 and won a special election. Harding's first term in the Senate was up in 1920, and Republican Frank B. Willis successfully ran to replace him.

Two experts on the presidency told RealClearPolitics that the loss of Obama's Senate seat wouldn't significantly harm his legacy on its own -- despite its place in the record books -- but it would hurt his effectiveness in office.

"I don't know if it will affect his legacy, but it certainly will have an effect on his presidency," said Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton University. "Symbolically, it will be read as another sign of his weakness."

"The bottom line is that Obama needs to retake the political initiative," said Stephen J. Wayne, a presidential scholar at Georgetown University. "He needs a Democratic nominee who can win and will support his policy priorities; he needs to return to the policy and political offensive. The election of a sympathetic Democratic Senator from Illinois will help."

Unable to recruit a bigger name like Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Democrats will rely on one of three mostly untested candidates: state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (whom polls show to be the favorite), former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman or Cheryle Jackson, president of the Chicago Urban League and a former press secretary for impeached governor Rod Blagojevich.

Expected to emerge victorious in the Republican primary is Rep. Mark Kirk, whose moderate voting record in Congress should help him statewide. Kirk was the national party's first choice to take back the seat Obama won in 2004 following the retirement of Republican Peter Fitzgerald, who served one term.

Fitzgerald is the only Illinois Republican to win a Senate seat since 1978, and Democrats have won the state at the presidential level in every election since 1992. However, the Republican win in last month's special Senate election in Massachusetts proved just about any seat is up for grabs this year.

"I doubt whether the President's legacy will stand or fall on that election," said Wayne.

However, Zelizer noted, Obama's agenda took a hit with the Massachusetts loss, and the loss of his Senate seat "would certainly fall into that story."

Dems Slam Kirk For Earmark Hypocrisy

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) came out swinging in a Monday morning conference call with reporters, slamming Senate candidate Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for his "hypocrisy" on earmarking federal dollars for his district.

"His sudden outrage at earmarks comes years and years after supporting them, sponsoring them, condoning them," said Schakowsky, whose district borders Kirk's north of Chicago. "His sudden disapproval of earmarks simply doesn't pass the smell test, and he can't have it both ways."

The call was set up by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is pushing to keep President Obama's former seat in Democratic hands. It coincided with the launch of a new website called "Two Faced Kirk." Rep. Kirk joined Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), one of the most conservative members of Congress, at a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday highlighting the "11 Worst Pork-Barrel Spending Projects in the 111th Congress."

An Associated Press story published Thursday centered on the fact that Kirk secured $30 million in earmarks for his district in 2007, yet was attacking their usage at a press conference. Kirk, though, has reportedly sworn off earmarks since 2008, joining most of his party leaders in the House.

"There so far doesn't appear to be anything that Mark Kirk has stood for," including earmarks, gay rights and cap-and-trade, said Schakowsky. "I think he's pandering for votes to the base of the Republican Party. But in doing so he is leaving himself completely vulnerable because you can't have it both ways on these core issues for a lot of people."

Kirk is expected to win the Republican primary in February, while a new Chicago Tribune poll finds state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leading the Democratic field. Kirk's moderate voting record in the House should serve him well running statewide, as Illinois has elected just one Republican to the Senate since the 1960s and hasn't supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

Democrats, including Schakowsky, argue that Kirk is now attempting to win over the conservative wing of his party, while resting on his moderate record in Congress.

Republicans hit back at Schakowsky on Monday in a statement that mentioned her ties to ousted governor Rod Blagojevich and noted that Schakowsky is doing nothing to reform the earmarking process that allows for corruption.

"Schakowsky continues to buck President Obama's calls for reforming wasteful earmarks in Washington and she is still heavily involved in the culture of corruption in Illinois," said Amber Wilkerson Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

When asked on the conference call about her own potential hypocrisy -- attacking Kirk's earmarks when she pulls in pork-barrel spending for her own district -- Schakowsky reminded reporters that it's Kirk's sudden change of heart (during his run for Senate) that is so troubling.

"The issue is he supports using earmarks to benefit contributors, and then suddenly is against them," said Schakowsky. "The duplicity on this and other things is the most upsetting."

Giannoulias Wins Labor Endorsement, Cuts 2nd TV Ad

Alexi Giannoulias, running for President Obama's former Senate seat, began airing his second TV ad of the campaign today in an effort to highlight his plan to create more jobs. The ad is airing in the Chicago and Springfield-Champaign-Decatur markets.

The Giannoulias campaign also announced today the endorsement of the Illinois chapter of the AFL-CIO, which has 1 million members. This latest support adds to his list of two dozen labor groups in the state that have already endorsed him, including the SEIU.

IL Sen Poll: Kirk, Giannoulias Tied

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) are neck-and-neck in the race to permanently replace President Obama in the Senate, according to a new automated poll from Rasmussen (Oct. 14, 500 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%).

Giannoulias holds a small lead in the money race with more than $2.4 million in the bank as of the end of September, while Kirk announced raking in $1.6 million in the 3rd quarter to bring his cash on hand to $2.3 million.

Also tested against Kirk were Democrats Cheryle Jackson, a former top aide to Rod Blagojevich, and Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.

Kirk 41 - Giannoulias 41 - Und 13

Kirk 43 - Jackson 39 - Und 13

Kirk 43 - Hoffman 33 - Und 16

IL Sen Poll: Kirk Out In Front

With more than a year to go before the whacky fight for President Obama's former Senate seat actually gets decided by the voters, Rep. Mark Kirk (R) has a small advantage according to a new Rasmussen survey (Aug 12, 500 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%).

Kirk leads state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, his most likely Democratic competitor, by 3 points and Cheryle Jackson, a former aide to disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich, by 17 points.

Kirk 41 - Giannoulias 38 - Undecided 17

Kirk 47 - Jackson 30 - Undecided 17

Kirk, who's represented his Chicago-area 10th District since 2000, is viewed favorably by 55 percent of respondents; 51% have a favorable impression of Giannoulias and 36% of Jackson. In his home state, 56 percent approve of the job Obama is doing is president, with 42 percent disapproving.

Thanks to Blagojevich -- who is accused of attempting to sell the seat after Obama was elected president -- taking over for the former senator has been anything but routine. Blagojevich's choice to serve the remainder of Obama's term was Roland Burris, who announced in early July that he would not seek election to a full term next year.

Spotted: Mark Kirk at the Senate GOP Luncheon

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who has reportedly gone back and forth in deciding whether or not to run for Senate, was spotted by RCP walking into the weekly Senate Republican luncheon early this afternoon. He was clearly in foreign territory -- on the Senate side of the Capitol -- as he and an aide had to ask someone where the room was.

As he walked into the luncheon room, Kirk was welcomed by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

"It's good to be here," RCP overheard Kirk saying, before RCP was shooed away from the door by Capitol Police.

Illinois GOP Chairman Andy McKenna, who has been considering a run for the Senate as well, said last night that he would step aside should Kirk decide to run.

Kirk has faced competitive challenges in recent years in his 10th district. Kirk won the last two elections in the swing district with just 53% of the vote against Democrat Dan Seals. In 2008, President Obama won the district with 61 percent.

Kirk Won't Run for Senate

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has decided not to run for Senate -- a reversal from reports earlier this week that he was definitely jumping in. The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

Kirk's decision not to run comes on the heels of the leading Democratic candidate's opting out of the race. Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Wednesday that she would instead run for re-election, leading to reports later that day that Kirk would run.

Left from the fallout is state GOP Chairman Alex McKenna, who had been considering running against Kirk, and two Democrats -- state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and businessman Chris Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. Giannoulias has raised $1.8 million so far after a dropoff in pace in the second quarter.

Madigan Won't Run For IL Gov, Sen

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will announce today she is running for re-election, despite being recruited by the Obama administration to run for Senate and her own interest in running for governor.

The Fix first reported the news.

Madigan had long expressed an interest in serving as governor but the ouster of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and ascension of Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) to the top job complicated her path.

To be clear, Madigan would have been a favorite had she decided to run for either the Senate or for governor, a fact that makes her decision to run for neither office all the more puzzling.

With Madigan out of the Senate race, expect businessman Chris Kennedy to quickly announce his candidacy, joining state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the Democratic primary. Madigan's no-go decision also makes it far more likely that Rep. Mark Kirk, by far Republicans strongest candidate, will make the race.

A survey released in late April found Madigan leading Kirk by 15 points.

The Trouble With Illinois Politics

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) finally got some good news today, when the Sangamon County state's attorney announced that there was "insufficient evidence" to charge him with perjury.

"I am glad that the truth has prevailed," Burris said in a statement.

Of course, this hardly clears the field for Burris if he intends to run for a full term in 2010. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) is actively raising money for his campaign. And as has been noted here and elsewhere, the White House has apparently discussed the race with state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Obama "thinks she would make a great candidate," Robert Gibbs announced from the White House podium.

Madigan has sought to portray herself as independent of the scandals involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and others. She played a high-profile role in trying to remove Blago from office when the Senate appointment scandal broke. But as she considers a campaign either for Senate or governor, she'll likely have to deal with another familiar, though controversial name: Rezko.

This Chicago Sun-Times story from 2007 lists Madigan as having received the fifth-most campaign contributions from Tony Rezko, the indicted real estate developer and fundraiser. She received $43,000 from Rezko, just more than her father, state House Speaker Michael Madigan did. She trailed only Blagojevich, former Cook County board president John Stroger, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and -- famously, then-Senator Obama.

This is not to imply any wrongdoing. But it likely would come up in any competitive race she enters.

Gibbs: WH Not Picking Candidate In Illinois Senate Race

At today's White House briefing, the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet followed up on her report that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan came to the White House to discuss a potential candidacy for the state's Senate seat. Sweet reported that the White House "is pushing to have" Madigan run, and that she offered some conditions she would want before making a decision, including a clear primary field.

Today, Gibbs tried to make clear that the administration wants no part in primary politics, though his answer lead many to believe otherwise.

"The president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race," Gibbs said. "The president has a very long relationship with the attorney general dating back to their time in the state Senate, and has enormous respect for what she accomplished there and as attorney general. I think she'd be a terrific candidate. But we're not going to get involved in picking that candidate."

Why then praise her in that way, if the White House truly did not plan to get involved?

"We're not picking a candidate. We're not going to endorse in this race," he repeated. "Does the president have enormous respect for the attorney general? Absolutely."

But are administration officials working to facilitate a Madigan run?

"The staff assistants aren't going to pick a candidate, the assistants to the president aren't going to pick a candidate, and the president's not going to pick a candidate," Gibbs said.

He later said that the "president enjoyed meeting" with Madigan, and that if any other potential candidate wanted to meet with him, "The address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

Schakowsky Won't Run for Senate

Citing the immense amount of time it would take to raise the necessary funds, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) announced this morning she will not seek the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

"I seriously explored mounting a campaign for the Senate", Schakowsky said in a press release. "I feel confident that I could raise the $10 million dollars needed for a primary race - and the $16 million plus needed for a general election campaign - but to do it I would have to become a telemarketer five to six hours each day."

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet reported Schakowsky's decision yesterday.

Many expect Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), whose appointment and brief Senate career was controversial from the start, to not attempt to keep the seat next year. Two who appear they will run are State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chris Kennedy, a businessman and political heir. The wildcard continues to be Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, who's mulling whether to run for governor or Senate.

IL Senate Poll: Kirk Looks Good

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), first elected in 2000, is fresh off two close races in his moderate district north of Chicago, which has voted for Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama in the last three presidential elections. He's reportedly "poised" to run for Senate, and a new PPP poll indicates he's in good position at the starting gate.

According to the survey (April 24-26, 991 RV, MoE +/- 3.1%), Kirk, who's still not well-known statewide, runs even with Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and leads both Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Roland Burris. He trails Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, though many expect her to run for governor.

Kirk 53 - Burris 19 - Und 28

Kirk 37 - Schakowsky 33 - Und 30

Kirk 35 - Giannoulias 35 - Und 29

Kirk 33 - Madigan 49 - Und 18

Should Kirk choose to run for re-election, he'll have a Democratic challenger awaiting him. State Sen. Michael Bond announced yesterday his intentions to run for the 10th District seat.

Schakowsky Ramps Up

Over at the RCP Blog, Tom Bevan notes Lynn Sweet's scoop on the potential Senate bid of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a six-term congresswoman from northern Chicago, and a poll she commissioned to test the waters:

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times has the scoop on Jan Schakowsky ramping up a potential bid for the United States Senate. According to Sweet, Schakowsky commissioned a poll from Celinda Lake (April 19-22, 600 Dem LV, MoE +/-4%) showing her with a slight lead over her two main rivals, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and the anemic incumbent Roland Burris:

Schakowsky 24%
Giannoulias 22%
Burris 18%
Undecided 36%

Schakowsky told Sweet she will make a final decision by June 8.

Rush: Burris Should Stay

Today, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Obama at the White House. Members spoke to the press after, and were asked about the absence of Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.). The members indicated that the CBC was invited as a group, not individually, and that as a member of the CBC Burris was entitled to attend. They did not respond to questions about whether his status in the Senate came up in discussions with the White House.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), one of Burris' most vocal supporters, said after that Burris should have been present as any others were. Asked by RCP about a new push for a special election that would result in Burris being removed, Rush insisted that it would be too expensive for the state, and was not necessary.

"I think Sen. Burris should not resign," Rush said. "He did not do anything inappropriate, he did not do anything arrestable, he did not do anything indictable."

That lofty standard aside, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today about more previously-undisclosed ties between Burris and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The state had hired Roland Burris II as a senior counsel for the state housing authority on Sept. 10, "about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house," the paper reported.

Gibbs Suggests Burris "Think Of What Lays In His Future"

It was not explicitly a call for his resignation, but perhaps just short of one. At his briefing today, Robert Gibbs suggested that Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) should "take some time this weekend" to correct testimony he gave before the Blagojevich impeachment committee, and also "think of what lays in his future."

"The appointment of Senator Burris was -- and his taking the Senate seat -- was based largely on the representations that he made, factual representations that he made to the people of Illinois through interviews and through his testimony to the impeachment committee," Gibbs said. "We know that, and it has been reported extensively that ... some of those stories seem to be at variance with what's happened."

Gibbs shrugged when reporters suggested that his comments sounded like a call for resignation, and only repeated that various outlets have documented the discrepancies between Burris' testimony before the impeachment committee and subsequent affidavits and public comments.

Today, Gov. Pat Quinn said that Burris should resign, and that his seat should be filled through a special election. Gibbs has denied speaking with President Obama about the issue. But given the close relationship between the two, one wonders whether Gibbs intentionally does not discuss it with the president to allow for plausible deniability, or whether they have their own "off the record" sessions.

Durbin Cruising

With his home-state colleague running for President this year, and with a nearly eight-to-one cash on hand advantage over his opponent, one might be forgiven for forgetting that Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is running for re-election this year. But he is, and a new poll conducted for his opponent shows the two-term Democrat cruising toward a third term.

The survey, conducted by Southern Outreach for Dr. Steve Sauerberg's campaign, polled 1,500 likely voters on 7/12 for a margin of error of +/- 3%. The sample was made up of 53% Democrats, 35% Republicans and 12% independents or other party affiliations. Durbin and Sauerberg, the Republican nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Durbin...........52
Sauerberg....35

Durbin has polled well in both his races to date, racking up 56% of the vote in 1996 and 60% in 2002. But as a point of personal pride, Durbin has two other goals to meet: In 2004, aided by a presidential election turnout, Barack Obama scored nearly 3.6 million votes, 70% of those cast. If Durbin has any hope of taking back bragging rights, he'll have to beat one of Obama's two scores.

Of course, it could be harder for Durbin to reach that mark as Obama heads the ballot this year. Even if Durbin does beat Obama's 2004 total, the presidential contender will probably win his state by a wider margin than Durbin will win re-election.