Monday, May 24, 2010

Illinois Senate Race Shows Democratic Divisions

Summary: The matchup between Kirk and Giannoulias is looking better for Republicans.

For months, Republicans have seen Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) as the best chance possible for winning a Senate seat in a liberal state. For them, the news just gets better and better.

Recently, Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has been under fire, as his family business - Broadway Bank - was seized and closed by the FDIC last month. His own polls show him neck-and-neck with Kirk, and independent polls find him further behind.

Now he’s having trouble earning support from key Illinois Democrats.

In an interview with Politico, Chicago Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) said “I like Alexi Giannoulias, but I have great respect for Mark Kirk and his service to the people of Illinois.” Apparently, he’s been considering a Kirk endorsement.

None of Chicago’s three black Congressmen - Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush, and Danny Davis - endorsed Giannoulias in the primary, and none of them seem to have warmed up to their party’s nominee.

From the story:

“Like all statewide Democratic candidates, Giannoulias will need strong turnout in Chicago to overcome the Republican tendencies of downstate Illinois. As of the most recent census, more than one-third of Chicagoans — and 15 percent of the state’s residents — are black. It would help on the ground level to have the backing of Chicago’s black lawmakers, including Jackson, who served as a co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s campaign and whose wife, Sandi, is a powerful city alderman.

By all measures, it’s a competitive race, and Giannoulias can ill afford to have any cracks in the traditional Democratic coalition.”

Not only would the failure to receive a Jackson endorsement (even if he doesn’t endorse Kirk) hurt Giannoulias symbolically, but mechanically as well. In order to drive turnout on Chicago’s South Side, the current State Treasurer will need help from Jackson’s important political operations there.

There is a lot that goes in to waging a campaign. Details are tricky and time is a valuable resource. But given the political landscape this year, the Giannoulias campaign will want to devote some time and manpower towards courting Chicago’s congressmen.