The man running for President Obama's old Senate seat, Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, was in Washington, DC yesterday for a celebration of Greek Independence Day and met with White House political hands David Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, Hotline OnCall's Reid Wilson reports.

What's interesting about this is that Giannoulias was not the preferred candidate of the White House political team, despite being a personal friend of President Obama (the two played basketball together back in Chicago): the White House wanted state Attorney General Lisa Madigan to run.

As Giannoulias was hit hard for his family ties to banking during the primary, perhaps concerns over his suitability have been justified; but he's young, seems charismatic--women in Illinois call him "Sexy Lexi," which never hurts--and he's polling ahead of his Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, by single digits.

Illinois figures to be one of the nation's top competitive Senate races in 2010, and the fact that Obama's old seat is in play has added some attention to it. Now that Giannoulias is the candidate, the White House has no reason not to help him, and he could benefit from Axelrod's knowledge of how politics works in Illinois.

After all, the president's top strategist was, before the 2008 campaign, one of the top political minds in Chicago.

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