Illinois politics is nothing if not entertaining. Both the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primary races are up in the air, with a few hundred votes separating the top GOP finishers and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn declaring victory, though his opponent had not conceded when the president called both yesterday. Then there is the Democratic Lieut. Governor nominee:
The newly minted Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor said Wednesday he doesn’t think a 2005 domestic battery arrest should hurt him in the fall general election, although records in the case raise questions about his version of events. Scott Lee Cohen, a pawn broker who was the surprise winner in the little-publicized contest among half a dozen candidates, had previously disclosed the arrest. He described it Wednesday as an argument with his drunken girlfriend and said he didn’t lay a hand on her, though she called the police and had him taken into custody.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate race is off with a bang. At a unity breakfast Wednesday, this Sun-Times report tells us, the GOP state party chair got things off to a flying start when he cheered nominee Mark Kirk and “derided Kirk’s Democratic opponent Alexi Giannoulias as ‘a 33-year-old with less than one term in office, whose only life experience is serving as an officer in his family’s bank, which is on the verge of financial collapse. As treasurer, he lost $150 million of our children’s college savings.’” There is, he explained, quite a lot of material for Kirk to work with:
“With that record, even Tony Rezko is going to stop doing his business in the bank.”
Republicans wasted no time in putting up an attack ad which savages Giannoulias about loans he made from his family’s bank to people linked with organized crime — loans he has since told the Sun-Times, that in hindsight, knowing what he knows now, he would not have made. Kirk criticized Giannoulias for dodging questions about those loans on Wednesday morning news shows.
“I think David Hoffman was right in everything he said about the bank,” Kirk said today, referring to Giannoulias primary opponent David Hoffman.
No wonder the New York Times confesses to its readers that the Giannoulias-Kirk matchup is “setting off a new round of worrying among Democrats that the reliably Democratic seat might be picked off by Republicans in November.”
Given all that, I suspect that this is one state Obama might want to steer clear of, even though his former seat is at stake. And with Obama’s track record in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, there is no guarantee that the president would prove much help to Giannoulias. Indeed, his appearance in those states seemed only to gin up the Republican base and highlight the connection between the Democratic candidates and the increasingly unpopular national Democratic agenda. With a polished opponent, the upcoming trial of former governor Rod Blogojevich, a load of Tony Soprano–type oppo ads waiting to be launched against him, and a “challenging” atmosphere for Democrats, Giannoulias probably has his hands full without a presidential visit.