Here in Illinois, which many acknowledge to still be a "blue" state, and the adopted home state of President Barack Obama, the Democrats are nevertheless taking a pounding, not only because of malaise in their own party, but also because Independents appear to be beating a path to the GOP door.
To help fill the so-called "enthusiasm gap," this week, former President Bill Clinton will be in town this morning to rally enthusiasm for the Dem base, and on Saturday, President Obama will make yet another trip back here to hold a big rally to, again, try to energize the Dem base.
The fact that the Dems feel they have to do this at all, in one of their few remaining strongholds, is telling. But will it work?
First off, President Clinton couldn't even fill a high-school gym at a rally last week in Michigan, in which many of their important state-wide candidates attended. With the awful weather in Chicago this morning, it's questionable if this event will even make a mark.
Obama, of course, has the ability to draw bigger crowds, and throw in a free concert on a nice Saturday afternoon in Chicago, it's likely that many people will attend, but will they remember to vote the next Tuesday? And if they do, weren't these the kind of Obama fans likely to have voted anyway? I don't see a lot of Independents, who are generally fed up with the unfulfilled administration promises and lousy state of the economy getting "fired up" about another Obama visit.
None of this seems to have the Republicans worried, especially Congressman Mark Kirk, who is locked in a tight race with Alexi Giannoulias, but may be beginning to pull away.
"While you always want the stars of your party to come in and it rallies up the base, I don't think it moves the needle that much," Kirk told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times. "In the end, people are going to be voting their pocketbooks."
Kirk added, "In the end, I think the time of the big endorsements has past. This is now a contest between Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk."
UPDATED: I didn't think the Clinton event this morning was going to be a home-run by any means, but it looks like Slick Willy may have massively struck out in Chicago. Bill Cameron of WLS reports:
Former President Bill Clinton’s ‘get out the vote’ rally for Democrats at a downtown Chicago hotel was the most unenthusiastic WLS veteran political reporter Bill Cameron has ever witnessed.
Clinton was an hour late for the Tuesday afternoon rally at the Palmer House and droned on for another hour, sending dozens of the few hundred Democrats in attendance for the exits.
UPDATED x2 10/27/10 Does Clinton Really Have His Heart in Campaigning for Obama's Agenda and Chosen Candidates? Check out this story from the Washington Examiner, which uses yesterday's tepid rally in Chicago led by Bill Clinton to discuss whether his heart really seems to be in this business of campaigning for his wife's former political nemesis, Barack Obama, and Obama's chosen candidates:
The problem was, it wasn't entirely clear how much Clinton really wanted to help Democrats, and especially Obama, win next week's elections. In the course of a one-hour speech, Clinton, whose wife lost a bitter nomination battle to Obama just two years ago and might still be considering another run for the White House, offered faint praise for the current president and a steady stream of criticism for Democrats, who he said have failed to communicate their message to the voters. If Clinton, who also seemed deeply concerned with defending his own record as president, had simply wanted to fire up the troubled party faithful here, he could have delivered a rousing defense of Obama and his party. Instead, his message was at best mixed, and at the end a listener could not be entirely sure whether Clinton truly believes Democrats deserve to win in November. [snip]
After the speech, in an impromptu interview with ABC News, Clinton said, "It's what happened to me in '94," meaning that today's political atmosphere is similar to the time he famously lost both houses of Congress to Republicans in his first midterm election. Bringing up that disastrous defeat is a comparison that cannot have been welcome in Democratic circles. Then, in what appeared to be a clear jab at the White House, Clinton agreed to campaign on behalf of Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island who was snubbed by President Obama and who later said that Obama can "take his endorsement and shove it." Caprio endorsed Hillary Clinton over Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary; now, Clinton's endorsement of Caprio sends the signal that he's not necessarily on the same page with the president.