Fight for Obama's Senate Seat Gets Ugly Fast

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias comes under attack within moments of winning the primary

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The battle for Barack Obama's recently-vacated Illinois Senate seat has turned mean fast. Tuesday's primaries yielded Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias and Republican candidate Mark Kirk. Giannoulias is a 33-years-young first-term State Treasurer with experience working for his family's bank. Kirk has represented Chicago's northern suburbs in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001. It's only the first day on their long journey to the November election, but both, especially Giannoulias, are already coming under attack.

  • Giannoulias Is Like Tony Soprano The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports on the GOP-led charge. "The National Republican Senatorial Committee moved quickly to define Giannoulias as part of a corrupt, broken political machine with the release of a web video detailing his alleged ties to the mafia." Cillizza adds, "Giannoulias' family bank -- Broadway Bank -- proved to be a problem for the frontrunner as [primary opponent] Hoffman used some of the negative publicity surrounding it to cast Giannoulias as a corrupt insider."

  • 'Bankers Don't Need Another Vote In The Senate' The Chicago Tribune reminds us: Those were the words of President Obama in Massachusetts, campaigning against banker-supported Republican Scott Brown. The Tribune writes, "We'd wager a pair of Obama's mom-jeans that Republican candidate Mark Kirk will give you more than a few viewings of the president declaring that, yes, bankers don't need another vote in the Senate."
  • Giannoulias Connected to Rezko Commentary's Jennifer Rubin highlights an obscure connection between Giannoulias and Tony Rezko, the disgraced banker convicted of fraud. While Giannoulias was working at his family's bank, it made several loans to Rezko. Rubin writes, "You almost wonder whether Karl Rove has infiltrated the Democratic Party. How else to explain how the Democrats could nominate to replace Roland Burris, the senator from Blagojevich, the banker for Tony Rezko?"
  • Giannoulias Connected to Obama Conservative blogger Tim Mak thinks this will be a "hindrance". Obama's "approval rating in Illinois has fallen, much like in the rest of the country. An August poll put Obama at only 59% approval, and that was before five months of a still-grumbling economy, and the collapse of healthcare legislation. As such, if Kirk chooses to take this path, an anti-Obama message could connect him to the independents that he needs to pull off a victory à la Scott Brown."
  • Giannoulias Is A Democrat So charges RNC Shair Michael Steele. "Whether it's the Senate seat once held by President Obama, or the governorship, or other seats across the state, voters are clearly tired of the arrogance and corruption in government and are ready to make the change they want," he tells reporters. "With its unemployment rate among the worst in the nation, Illinois can no longer afford the binge spending and failed leadership of entrenched Democrats."
  • Kirk's Rightward Flip-Flops Huffington Post's Steve Sheffey slams, "he's manufactured a moderate image that belies his commitment to a right-wing Republican agenda and to leaders who support that agenda--an agenda sometimes at odds with Kirk's rhetoric and the positions that Kirk claims to support." Sheffey writes that Kirk has "reversed himself," adopting more conservative policies, on abortion, gay rights, cap and trade, Guantanamo, and Sarah Palin.
  • Kirk Is a Fake Republican RedState's Leon Wolf disowns the GOP candidate for his pro-choice stance and his vote in favor of cap-and-trade. "[I]f you (like me) simply can't bring yourself to root for Kirk, or even to spend your energy kicking Giannoulias like the walking pinata that he is, spend your energy instead working to help someone you can support (like Rubio or Toomey) elected."
  • Why Giannoulias Under More Attacks Congressional Quarterly's Shira Toeplitz explains, "Giannoulias had a tougher primary than Kirk, so voters didn't hear as many negatives about the eventual Republican winner as they did about the Democrat." It would also stand to reason that the GOP can now coopt the attacks developed by Giannoulias's primary opponents.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.