The Battle for Obama's Senate Seat

Today's Illinois primary begins a surprisingly close fight

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Illinois voters go to the polls Tuesday to select primary candidates to run for the governorship of Illinois and the Senate seat recently vacated by President Obama. Political watchers predict an outside chance for Republicans, but given the recent GOP victories in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, an outside chance may be enough to make both races close. Who are the contenders--particularly for Obama's former Senate seat--and how did they get here?

  • Weak Democratic Field  The New York Time's Gail Collins surveys. Front-runner Alexi Giannoulias works for his family's bank, which is under federal oversight. "The White House is so enthusiastic about his candidacy that the administration tried unsuccessfully to get Lisa Madigan, the attorney general, to run instead." Cheryle Robinson Jackson is a former aid to Blagojevich. Collins writes of David Hoffman, a former Chicago Inspector General, "If Hoffman should manage to win, it will be a big upset that will demonstrate that the hunger for change extends beyond Tea Partyists and disgruntled independents, into the very heart of the regular Democrats."
  • This Is Blago's Fault  Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet blames the scandal-ridden former IL governor. "That Republicans are salivating over two Illinois plums -- governor and senate -- is Blagojevich's fault. The state has been Democratic for years: both senators, the governor, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and all the statewide elected major office-holders are Democratic. And a Chicagoan is the president of the United States," she writes. "Illinois Democrats are splintered and frazzled in the wake of the impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich."
  • Moderate GOP Front-Runner  A.P.'s Christopher Wills writes, "Republican leaders rallied around Mark Kirk, a five-term member of Congress and an officer in the Naval Reserve, as their choice for the party nomination. Although some Republicans hotly argued that Kirk wasn't sufficiently conservative, there was little evidence any of his opponents were catching on with voters."
  • For Dems, Insider vs Outsider  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says the primary could be a bellwether for Democratic sentiment. "Giannoulias has lined up the support of much of the party establishment but has seen former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman making up ground with a law and order, outsider appeal -- think Elliot Ness. In one ad, Hoffman paints Giannoulias as an insider's insider." A Hoffman win "would rightly be interpreted as voters in Illinois sending the same message that the voters of Massachusetts did last month" by electing Scott Brown.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.