The race for the U.S. Senate seat that is soon to be vacated by outgoing Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris is proving to be a hot battle between 5-term GOP Congressman Mark Kirk and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Recently, Kirk has been hitting Giannoulias hard, right between the eyes on the revelations that Giannoulias' family-owned Broadway bank was on the danger list for being taken over by the FDIC without a huge injection of capital... not to mention the fact that we then began to learn of all the shady characters that banked or received loans from Broadway Bank. A recent Politico article detailed how Giannoulias' campaign chairman, Dick Durbin, had apparently gone to the White House to plead for support for the beleaguered Alexi, but had been rebuffed.
Then, last Friday, the expected news hit that Broadway Bank was no more, seized by the Feds and the assets sold off to M.B. Financial. Cameramen and reporters swarmed the scene, showing the doors closing and the BB signs being taken down or covered over.
Some thought it was curtains for Alexi. And some thought that it would be a good thing for Mark Kirk. However, the better-informed readers of this Blog know that we'd much rather have a badly-damaged Alexi survive as the Dem candidate, and live to face Kirk in November. Some even mistakenly think that the heavy political hits that have been coming from Kirk's camp have been designed to give Alexi the knock-out punch... and many Alexi supporters put in overtime trying to combat rumors that the Dem powers-that-be had targeted Alexi for political termination.
But we all understand that while Kirk's team has been deftly keeping Alexi back on his heels with jabs to the left and the right, the KO punch is not going to come, by design, because Kirk wants Alexi to be the candidate. It's no secret, but it's rather amusing to me the number of people who seem to think that Kirk intends on running Alexi out of the race. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course, Alexi has to do his part. When the news was about to break on Friday, there was no doubt some sweat on the brow of some Kirk staffers concerned that they'd done TOO good a job working Alexi over.
But never fear, the smart money was that Alexi's ego wasn't going to take this lying down, and would roll with the punches, only to jab back. Lucky for Kirk, Alexi is now trying to counter, with a new campaign commercial trying to lash back at Kirk while at the same time engender common-man sympathy for the take-over of his family business. Alexi is also renewing his call for Kirk to return Goldman Sachs contributions (all the while ignoring the gobs of money Obama and other Dems have taken from GS), which, although is already starting to get a little stale, may have some populist appeal.
My Dem friends on the inside maintain that while this is going to be close, it's still winnable for Alexi. And that's great, because that's exactly what we want them to think. But they are not giddy over Alexi anymore, by any means. I will be very interested to see how all this affects Alexi's enthusiasm among his base, and his fundraising, though, especially after he got trounced by Kirk in Q1, even before the BB takeover. Even the Anti-Kirk, Ellen of the Tenth, is not impressed with Alexi so far, which ought to scare anyone who figures the base is automatically in the tank for Alexi (is that the ghost of David Hoffman lurking out of the corner of your eye, perhaps?)
Well, watch the video from Alexi and remember what we've learned about politics, in terms of defining your opponent before he or she defines you: Blago did it to JBT and she never recovered. Kirk has successfully implanted the FAILED BANKER label squarely on Alexi's forehead, and Alexi is going to spend the rest of the campaign having to answer that issue even before he can go on the attack against Kirk. Nicely played, Congressman.
UPDATED 10:40 a.m.: Eric Zorn at the Tribune calls Alexi "toxic" and wonders 1) why Alexi doesn't get the message from the cold shoulder given to him by the White House, and 2) why the Dem powers-that-be weren't smart enough to avoid this mess by nominating someone electable. Good questions, all.