Friday, July 30, 2010

Quinn Calls For Special U.S. Senate Election; Burris Not Ready to be Brushed Aside

Yesterday, Governor Pat Quinn decided to go ahead with plans for a special election to fill the remainder of the U.S. Senate term of now-President Barack Obama, in the face of decision by a federal district judge that was already beginning to shape that process.

We're been paying particular attention to this story, given the potential political drama that may unfold if current U.S. Senator Roland Burris does not meekly bow to the unfolding plan to simply place the winners of the primary election on the ballot for the special election, and corresponding damage to the Democrats, who don't need any reminders to the voters that the current U.S. Senator was placed there by disgraced former Guv Rod Blagojevich.

As we predicted, Burris is continuing to rattle his saber that he will exercise whatever options he has to give him, rather than Alexi Giannoulias, a chance to be on the special election ballot. How real this threat is, well, who knows, since he's still in debt from his previous battle to be seated in the U.S. Senate, has a less-than-stellar recent record as a fundraiser, and is generally looked at with mixed degrees of derision and pity by many Illinoisans, it seems.

Aside from the Burris-Giannoulias drama, the fact that we will now have two elections appears to open the floodgates for 'maxed-out' donors for both Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk to double down and re-declare their faithful support, and contribute thousands more to their campaigns. I'm just guessing, but given Kirk's fundraising prowess, and his record of beating the pants off Giannoulias in the head-to-head fundraising battle in this race, I'd say the advantage goes to Kirk.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bob Dold Concentrates on Private Sector Growth in Second Radio Ad

Bob Dold, Republican candidate for Illinois' 10th Congressional District, is burning up the local airwaves with a series of hard-hitting radio ads that are playing on major radio stations in the Chicago area. The second of the series of ads, "Better Way," has just been released:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad News for Giannoulias: Roland Burris Apparently Not Giving Up Special Election Hopes

As we told you about yesterday, the specter of a special election for U.S. Senate to be held close to or congruent with the November general election now seems a reality, and after a hearing before a federal judge yesterday, the details are shaping up, though not yet finalized. It's possible the Judge will make a final decision on this Thursday (although perhaps that could be appealed and further delay things - who knows?).

In any case, based on District Judge Grady's decision yesterday, it appears that the State Central Committees for the Democratic, Republican and Green parties will choose the candidates for the special election, bypassing a primary. This may throw some confusion into the mix as to whether candidates will suddenly find their maximum fundraising contribution levels for individual donations effectively doubled, since they could theoretically raise money for two essentially identical elections at once. However, there now appears to be doubt as to whether that would be the result if, in fact, party bosses pick their candidate and there is no actual primary election.

In any event, as far as I can tell from the news reports, it seems that Senator Roland Burris' attorney was at the hearing yesterday, and made every indication that Burris wanted to be considered for the special election nomination from the Dems:

Under the plan, interim Senator Roland Burris could make an appeal to the Democratic committee to run in that special election. He has indicated he wants to but he gets no automatic ballot position. His lawyer says that's not good because he says Burris is the best candidate for that 60-day term.

"You have someone who is already in the seat, who is already experienced, who already has the staff, who already understands the issues that may or may not be voted on during that period of time. So he is going to serve the interests of the people of the state of Illinois," said Tim Wright, Roland Burris' attorney.

"The party can pick anybody who is otherwise qualified to be a senator to be the nominee in the special election and Mr. Burris, if he really wants to, should present himself," said Marty Oberman, election law attorney. Oberman says Judge Grady is expected to finalize his ruling in the next several days.

Remember the stink that Burris made when the Dem leadership initially refused to seat Burris? Burris, to his credit, outmaneuvered Senator Durbin and everyone else (after a little help by supporters who played the race card, and played it well) and got himself seated after all.

Is there any doubt that Burris would do whatever he felt he needed to do in order to protect his position, if he decides that he really wants to run? That would be awful news for Giannoulias, as voter confusion would be rampant with two different Dem nominees for the same office (though based on Burris' marked lack of fundraising ability, who knows how many voters will even know he's on the ballot), plus Giannoulias would lose any fundraising advantage to Mark Kirk that would be gained by having two elections.

Yes, it's becoming pretty clear that a Burris nomination for the special election (or even a public fight over it on the Dem side), will be a very bad thing for the Dems. Given the tightness of this election, it could swing the difference. And given the stakes, look for for the Dem leadership to do everything they can to avoid that scenario.

But it didn't do them much good last time. Roland Burris, is, after all, still Roland Burris.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Illinois Special Election for U.S. Senate a Potential Game-Changer

I'm fascinated by the recent turn of events concerning the lawsuit over former (and disgraced) governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment of the hapless Roland Burris to Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, now that we're apparently going to have a special election.

American voters tend to have short memories, but you may recall that when the whole debacle was unfolding, many Democrats supported the call for a special election to fill the vacant senate seat (caused by Obama's president victory) but ended up backing sheepishly away, as Burris shouldered his way into the U.S. Senate whether the Dem powers-that-be liked it or not. You can hardly blame Roland Burris, but you can blame the Democrats for not sticking to their original call for a special election, especially with what we now know of Blagojevich's desperate attempts to gain from his appointment power.

Now that a federal judge has ruled we're going to have a special election, the timing of all of this has the potential to really throw a spanner into the works of the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. The fact that time has simply run out, and any special election could actually be held on the same day as the general election, has the potential to confuse and frustrate voters, as well as affect the outcome of the general election.

The Tribune this morning cites Congressman Mark Kirk, the GOP nominee, as stating that if a special election is held, he will run for the seat. If he won the special election, and also won the general, that would give him a leg up in seniority in the Senate.

Alexi Giannoulias, on the other hand, is being a bit more cagey about his plans, probably because sitting Senator Roland Burris is now apparently having a bit of remorse about not running for a full term (as well as not a little wounded pride) and has declared that if a special election is held, he's running in it.

There appears to be some talk of having 'party leaders' pick the nominees for the special, to avoid a costly primary. There is little doubt that the GOP would pick Kirk; despite the constant undercurrent of rumbling from the party's far-right on ideological differences, and Kirk's recent flap over his military record embellishments, Pat Brady and the rest of the party leaders are solidly behind Kirk.

So, what would happen on the Dem side? I would expect that there would be some behind-the-scenes efforts to get Roland Burris to back off and allow Alexi Giannoulis to run, so that the general election nominees would be the same on both teams. But Burris may well resist that pressure, and if so, Giannoulias will have to do some fast talking to save face, if at the end of the day, he publicly seeks the nomination but he's not the Dem nominee in the special. Having two different candidates for U.S. Senate at the same time (if, in fact, the special election also takes place on November 2, at the same time as the general election, as some have speculated) would be disastrous for the Dems. Not to mention the fact that this whole debacle will simply remind Illinois voters about why we're in this mess to begin with (thanks, Governor Blagojevich).

Given how resistant Burris was last time to doing the will of the Dem leadership, I don't see him backing down this time. What could they possibly offer him? Is there any more room on his tombstone anyway?

Stay tuned, folks, this has the potential to be a game-changer in the U.S. Senate race. Although maybe I should take that back, as I think Mark Kirk will win no matter what, but I see the special election flap working heavily in favor of the Republicans.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Update: Rangel, Special Election, Kagan, Seals

Lots going on this morning, it appears. Here's your wrap-up:

Democrat Charlie Rangel, the powerful Congressman who was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee before he was forced to step down in a cloud of scandal relating to his handling of personal investments, rent payments and other no-nos, will be tried by the House Ethics Committee. Locally, Rangel is chiefly noted as one of 10th Congressional District Dan Seals' main patrons, before Rangel got so radioactive even Seals was forced to disgorge (some) campaign donations, after months of resisting calls to do so.

In the U.S. Senate Race, it looks like we might have a special election after all, at least to fill a parltry few months of the time that would remain before the winner of the general election between Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias is known. If only this had been done last year, there could have been a whole lot less trouble for folks like Blagojevich, but then, we wouldn't have the benefit of Roland Burris as our U.S. Senator, and I know we're all so proud of that.

Will Alexi run in the special election? Will there be a primary? Will Roland Burris make good on his promise (threat?) to run in a special election? What about Kirk? This could be a real interesting twist to an already nail-biting U.S. Senate race as we get closer to the fall.

I got an e-mail from the Kirk for Senate campaign this morning indicating that Kirk has declared he would have supported the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. She's going to be confirmed no matter what, but this move will likely annoy conservatives while bolstering Kirk's independent credentials.

Finally, someone sent me a Tweet from the Dan Seals campaign crowing that he was headed to Las Vegas to attend the ultra-liberal Netroots (Nutroots) Convention, formerly the Daily Kos convention, or whatever they called it. That's swell, Dan. We knew you were a far-lefty, but now everyone else knows it too. I'd love to be a fly on the wall to hear Dan pander to the ultra-left when he's far from home in the much more centrist 10th District. I really wonder why he's going at all, except to try to pick up national money. He'd better be careful in this day of constant vigilance on candidates, since he never knows when a juicy progressive statement might come back to haunt him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bob Dold Launches First Radio Ad in IL-10 Race

GOP Congressional Candidate Bob Dold is up on the radio with a 60-second 'meet the candidate' type ad. The ad will air on major Chicago radio like WBBM, WLS, WGN, etc.

“I’m Robert Dold. I’m a small business owner. I employ just under one-hundred people. I understand the pressures of meeting a payroll. I’m running for Congress because I believe Washington is going in the wrong direction. We have a choice to make. Do we want to empower the federal government, which seems to be growing by leaps and bounds each and every day? Or do we want to empower individuals?

For those of us who believe passionately in the ideals of the founders, the way forward, I believe, is clear. I believe that the strength of our country lies within each one of us. Within our families, our communities and our faith.

I’m a fiscal conservative and a social moderate and believe there is a better way. I want to go to Congress to make a difference. But I need your help. I’m Robert Dold and I approved this message. So please join me. Go to And let’s get back to work.”

Kirk: Alexi Giannoulias Tries to Shift Blame for Springfield's Debt Problems, Continues to Mislead Voters

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias has been hitting his GOP opponent, Congressman Mark Kirk, pretty hard with charges of lying and attacks on Kirk's credibility. We've now learned that Giannoulias has planned a press conference for today, after some weeks of running from the press, so we can expect some hard questions to be presented to Alexi. To prime the reporters' pumps a bit, the Kirk for Senate campaign released the following e-mail this morning attacking Giannoulias on his credibility on the issues:

Giannoulias Tries to Shift Blame for Springfield's Debt Problems, Continues to Mislead Voters

Background: During an appearance last night on Fox Chicago, Alexi Giannoulias continued to mislead voters about Congressman Kirks record while attempting to shift blame away from his failed leadership for the economic problems facing the State of Illinois.

Giannoulias Myth: What happened in Greece, what happened in Springfield, what Mark Kirk and George Bush have been a part of and Congress has been a part of, and thats really saddling the next generation with disgusting levels of debt.

Get the Facts: Alexi Giannoulias cannot blame Mark Kirk for his failed leadership in Springfield. While the national unemployment average stands at 9.5%, Illinois unemployment rate stands at 10.4%. The New York Times recently dubbed Illinois Greece by Lake Michigan noting the skyrocketing debt and unfunded liabilities in Springfield. In June, Fitch downgraded Illinois generation obligation bond rating to A with a negative outlook and downgraded its appropriations rating to A-.

Giannoulias Myth: He voted against extending unemployment benefits.

Get the Facts: Kirk voted to extend unemployment benefits five times in the last two years: On October 2, 2008, Kirk voted in favor of extending benefits. Kirk repeated his votes in favor of extending unemployment benefits on November 5, 2009, February 25, 2010, March 17, 2010 and on April 15, 2010. Congressman Kirk has said he would vote to continue unemployment insurance benefits again if Congress pays for it by cutting other spending.

Giannoulias Myth: He voted against time after time increasing the minimum wage.

Get the Facts: In 2007, Mark Kirk broke with his party to support raising the minimum wage. (Roll Call 18, 1/10/07)

Giannoulias Myth: Yet has no problem increasing his own salary.

Get the Facts: On April 27, 2010, Congressman Kirk voted to forego a pay raise for Fiscal Year 2011.

Giannoulias Myth: I am the only candidate who is out there proposing a plan to create jobs.

Get the Facts: Mark Kirk has outlined his plan to help small business employers grow their businesses and create jobs. His Small Business Bill of Rights is endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Get the Facts: Mark Kirk is the only candidate promoting specific economic agendas in local communities across Illinois. Learn more about Mark Kirks Rockford Agenda, Quincy Agenda and Springfield Agenda.

Get the Facts: Mark Kirk is endorsed over Alexi Giannoulias by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce for his economic plan and vision.

Get the Facts: Alexi Giannoulias wants raise state income taxes for Illinois families and employers and allow federal tax relief to expire.


Monday, July 19, 2010

More Thoughts on the Odd Timing of Obama's Fundraising Trip for Alexi Giannoulias (UPDATED x2)

As we told you yesterday, it's been announced that President Obama is coming back to his adopted home of Chicago to stump for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. The stakes are big since this race is a piece of an important puzzle - nothing less than control of the U.S. Senate. Recently Obama has been chastised by his own party for not doing enough to help fellow Democrats in what is looking more and more like a disastrous mid-term election. So while this move was not at all unexpected, the timing of it really strikes me as odd, so I felt compelled to offer some additional observations.

First, as the Chicago Tribune pointed out, this visit, scheduled for August 5th, is likely going to come right in the middle of the defense's case in the Blagojevich corruption trial. Why Obama would want to be anywhere near this town while that is going on, is beyond me. Right now, based on the media reports, it seems very possible that Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and presidential friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, will both be testifying at the trial.

There also remain a lot of unanswered questions regarding Obama's connection to Blagojevich's attempts to trade the power to name an appointee to the senate seat that Obama was vacating that so far, has not gotten a ton of national attention. The White House has been very, very silent on any discrepancies that have emerged between the story that was originally told regarding Obama's lack of involvement, and the seemingly contradictory testimony of union boss Tom Balanoff. More here.

You can bet that if Obama steps in front of the cameras in Chicago, this is going to be something that will be brought up. Obama may be able to avoid taking questions, but Alexi is another story. If he doesn't keep up his media contacts, he'll be accused of running away, as both he and opponent Mark Kirk have been so chastised at various points in this campaign already.

Clearly, Obama is coming in to save Alexi. But why now? Is it really to bolster Alexi's fundraising? An August 5th event is coming up right around the corner, and seems hardly any time at all to get together a successful event that brings in major dough, whether it's a small high-dollar affair or a cattle-call for the masses. Leaving aside whether Obama's ability to attract money for candidates (or votes for that matter) is what it once was, why is this event scheduled on such short notice?

We're not going to see any more official fundraising reports for some months, so unless Giannoulias chose to reveal (brag) about any results, we'll not find out if Obama's junket actually brings in any money. By that wisdom, you would think that Obama should have made more of an effort to show up before the Q2 deadline, but on the other hand, given the lackluster fundraising results from the visits of VP Joe Biden and other Obama surrogates, maybe it's better for Alexi that the potential results of this event will remain unknown.

Is Obama coming to tap down any behind-the-scenes suggestions that Alexi should step aside in favor of a Dem candidate that would have a better chance against Kirk? Rumors of Alexi being forced out abounded before Mark Kirk's flap over his military record; has concern among the Dems sprung back up given Alexi's Q2 fundraising debacle?

And, getting back to that August 5th date, does Obama plan so many more trips for Alexi that even if the first one is a bust, he'll be back plenty of times? Well, for better or worse, the President does have a lot of other candidates to try to boost besides basketball-buddy Alexi. And if several more appearances by Obama are in the works, that's going to dilute the excitement of any of these appearances. The Obama brand is already watered-down enough, even in his home state.

Well, there are certainly a lot of questions here. When Obama does come to town, I suspect that reporters will be waiting to spring many more, at least to Alexi, if they can't get the President to answer them himself.

UPDATED 11:10 a.m.: Looks like president advisor Valerie Jarrett won't testify in the Blago trial, but Rahm Emanuel still might. h/t Capitol Fax Blog.

UPDATED x2 12:35 p.m.: Here's NBC-5's Ward Room Blog's take on this:

Obama can’t afford to let the kid blow this race. His own prestige is on the line. If Giannoulias blows this, Republicans will crow that Obama’s own home state is rejecting his leadership.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Obama Returns to Chicago for Basketball-Buddy Alexi Giannoulias, But Has Obama's $$$ Power Faded?

Alexi Giannoulias, currently the State Treasurer of Illinois, needs money. No, not on behalf of the State of Illinois, although it is so far in the red, it may never see black, it seems. No, we're talking about Alexi's $3 million fundraising deficit compared to his GOP opponent, 5th-term Congressman Mark Kirk. Kirk has about $3.9 million cash on hand, it has been reported, while Alexi lags around a million, and Kirk outraised Alexi $2.3 million to just $900,000 last quarter.

So Alexi desperately needs some dough. Enter his basketball buddy, President Obama. Alexi just happens to be running to fill the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by Obama when he was elected president, and we all know what an embarrassment it would be if the Dems lost that seat.

Well, President Obama has finally decided to come to Alexi's rescue, or try to, after sending in some minions, including even Vice-president Joe Biden. However, apparently all the King's Men couldn't get the job done and move the fundraising needle for poor Alexi.

But will Obama do much better? The latest fundraisers that Obama has headlined apparently have had to slash ticket prices to just fill the venue. Does Obama (with deepening disapproval levels) still pack enough panache, even in his adopted home state, to really bring in the big dough for Alexi? We shall see. The Tribune also points out that Obama's visit will likely come while the defense is presenting its case in the corruption trial of disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich - with White House advisor Valerie Jarrett a potential witness to be called by the defense. As they say, timing is everything...

No one is letting go of the "mob banker" tag laid on Giannoulias either, and the Republican National Committee sought to draw a sharp distinction between Obama's stance against 'fat cat' bankers and his intent to raise money for Giannoulias:

"President Obama's hypocrisy is stunning -- one minute you hear him attacking the 'fat cat bankers' and the next he is raising money for a mob banker in Illinois," RNC spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said in a statement. "As someone who promotes transparency and openness on a daily basis, President Obama should be condemning Mr. Giannoulias for his risky actions and associations, not raising money to support his campaign for U.S. Senate."

Team Kirk, by the way, has spent months preparing for this eventuality. So, I am not too concerned, and certainly not worried that they didn't see this coming. We all knew Obama would show up eventually. The only question now is, what will happen once he shows?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Afternoon Fun: Cadigan Dishes on Blago via Hannity; Giannoulias's "Pathetic Cash Deficit"

TA diehards will recall attorney Bill Cadigan, who was running for the GOP nomination for the 10th Congressional District. I got a call from Cadigan today to catch up. Cadigan split his remaining campaign funds between Bob Dold and Mark Kirk after he dropped out of the race, and has been busy with his law practice. He found time recently, however, to appear on Hannity and give some perspective on the Blago trial:

Meanwhile, Alexi Giannoulias's awful fundraising report for Q2 is not going unnoticed, and Alexi's attempt to portray himself as an underdog being whipped by special interests doesn't really seem to pass the red-face test. NBC-5's Ward Room Blog takes a pretty hard look at the Giannoulias spin machine and concludes he comes up way short:

Alexi Giannoulias may not have as much money as Mark Kirk. But he has better money than Kirk. That’s the spin Giannoulias is trying to put on his pathetic cash deficit in the U.S. Senate race. [snip]

...Giannoulias is forced to portray himself as an underfunded outsider, taking on a tool of the financial industry. [snip]

Not surprisingly, Kirk is accusing Giannoulias of hypocrisy for adopting financial reform as an issue.

“It is ridiculous that failed banker Alexi Giannoulias would campaign on financial reform after Broadway Bank was shut down for ‘unsafe and unsound’ banking practices,” Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said. “Giannoulias lost any credibility he may have pretended to have on this issue the minute his bank’s failure cost the FDIC $394 million.”

Kirk will take that line all the way to the bank.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Q2 Reports Due Today; Kirk Trounces Alexi (UPDATED: Dold and Seals Neck-and-Neck)

Well, Q2 reports are due today, so the candidates that have been playing coy up until now ought to go ahead and fess up, because we'll all find out your results soon.

[TA's Note: I wrote the text below this morning before I saw the Washington Post has reported on Alexi Giannoulias' campaign numbers. Not a bad prediction on my part]

As everyone knows, Mark Kirk had a killer fundraising second quarter, $2.3 million. Nothing but crickets from Alexi, so my guess is he raised maybe a little over a million. That ought to suck a lot of wind out of his sails. We'll see.

UPDATED: Bloomberg News reports that Alexi raised less than $1 million in Q2, and has only $1 million on the bank. Wow.

The other race we're watching closely is the 10th congressional district race, where two-time loser Dan Seals is matched up against GOP newcomer Bob Dold. Both candidates have been holding their cards close, which means to me that neither side knows how the other did, so no one wants to be the first to brag, only to be upstaged by the other side.

Conventional wisdom would give a slight fundraising edge to Seals, simply due to greater name recognition, an established fundraising base (especially on the national side), and the fact that the Dems see IL-10 as a much better pickup opportunity than many districts where a Dem snuck in under the Obama umbrella in 2008, and there is a much greater chance of such districts swinging back to the GOP in the current environment.

Nevertheless, we expect a strong quarter out of Dold, even if he doesn't eclipse Seals, so this race is still very much in play, and it'll be exciting to see it unfold.

Feel free to leave your Q2 guesses in comments.

UPDATED: We've all been very curious about how the Dold and Seals fundraising competition would play out and it looks like the candidates were a virtual dead heat for Q2 results. Based on the Tribune's Clout Street blog report, Seals was around $550,000, and Dold edging slightly at $560,000 or so. Both candidates have about $800,000 cash on hand.

Based on expectations that Seals should be ahead of Dold by most conventional standards, I count this as a win for Dold.

Also - Greg Hinz has the scoop on the grilling Alexi G took today as he tried to explain away his for-crap fundraising numbers and his disingenuous hair-slitting as to who he will and will not take money from. Short story, unions PACs are okay, but not any PACs that donate to Kirk. Ahem.

UPDATED: Here's some coverage on Kirk and Dold in the Daily Herald.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Alexi Giannoulias Squarely in the Pocket of the Trial Lawyers (UPDATED)

The story of the day in the U.S. Senate race is that Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias has been doing some cross-border fundraising in Canada, of all places, reports Greg Hinz. Now, it doesn't appear that Giannoulias went to raise money from Canadians, so much, but rather was chasing the trial lawyers (how's that for a switch, someone following the ambulance-chasers) up to a trial lawyers convention.

Team Kirk was quick to do a little research and found out that Alexi really, really likes trial lawyers, and they like him. Team Kirk also came up with some good questions to be asked of Alexi, if he sticks his head up (he's been a little media-shy lately, it seems).

From the Kirk for Senate campaign:

The trial lawyers like Alexi Giannoulias a lot. Take a look at a few of his top contributors:

Employees of Weitz & Luxenberg: $21,000

Employees of SimmonsCooper: $75,550

Employees of Corboy & Demetrio: $82,050

Employees of Clifford Law Offices: $19,900

Key Questions for Alexi Giannoulias:

??? Why do you have time to go to Canada to pick up campaign contributions, but you don’t have time to give press conferences in Chicago on weekdays?

??? On your campaign home page you write: “Our voice, not their money…He'll take on special interests in Washington.” Is it misleading for Alexi to suggest he doesn’t take special interest contributions when clearly he does?

??? Will you side with your trial lawyer sponsors when it comes to lawsuit reform or will you side with the people of Illinois and support lawsuit reform?


UPDATED 7/13/10 8:30 a.m.: Here's some more fallout from Alexi's pursuit of trial lawyer cash across the northern border: Lynn Sweet dishes on Alexi's secrecy here. The Weekly Standard picks up on this and chimes in here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's a Friday; Maybe That Means We'll See Q2 Fundraising Numbers From Alexi Giannoulias (UPDATED)

Usually Friday is a good day. Last day of work for the week, for most people; an evening out, perhaps, with the chance to sleep in late on a Saturday. The weekend to look forward to. And, of course, if you are a politician, it represents an opportunity to dump bad news in a press release submitted to the media around 4:50 p.m., in the hopes that nobody reads the Saturday newspapers and something, anything, happens over the weekend to give the papers something else to focus on come Monday.

Almost all politicians are guilty of playing this game to some degree, and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias is no exception. In fact, he's used this tactic several times since he seems to have more than his fair share of bad news to dump. Most recently, the news that his taxes show he filed for an approximate $30,000 tax refund as a result of the losses he sustained when his family's Broadway Bank was taken over by the Feds was released on a Friday.

So, what might today bring? Well, it occured to me that we still haven't heard from Alexi as to his second quarter fundraising results. And today is the last Friday available before the Q2 reporting deadline, so I'd say the odds are pretty good we'll hear something. His opponent, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk released his Q2 results about 13 minutes after the final checks were counted, it appears, in order to crow about his record $2.3 million fundraising haul, and also made the point that he raised a million or so in June, even when the media was lambasting Kirk for discrepancies in his description of his military record.

In other news, yes I know the latest Rasmussen poll shows Kirk a point behind Giannoulias, and the popular spin on this seems to be that Kirk is 'trending down.' Well, guess what kids, it's a only a point difference (as Rasmussen says, a "virtual tie"), and given the volatility in this race, you can bet that if I was chortling over a one-point lead by Kirk over Giannoulias at this time, I'd be rightly taken to task. So I think any reports that Kirk is in "trouble" are greatly overblown. Me, Team Kirk and Kirk's $4 million in the bank says that we will weather this storm and come out on top in the end.

The fact that Alexi has not yet released his Q2 numbers is telling. Today may be the day, though, since, as we noted above, it is the last Friday available before the Q2 reporting deadline. Let's see what his momentum becomes once we see those numbers, and then we will take a look.

UPDATED: Today's Wall Street Journal looks at the Blago trial and suggests that the connection of President Obama and "Chicago Way" politics may just about to become a lot stronger, as the Blagojevich defense team is standing in the wings ready to come out fighting... and one of their primary defensive arguments appears to be that 'everyone in Chicago does politics' the way that Blago did... including the President, his closest advisers, and political allies like Alexi Giannoulias:

The [Tom] Balanoff testimony [regarding his discussion with Blago on the suggestion of apppointing close Obama associate Valerie Jarrett to Obama's U.S. Senate seat] was a hint of what may come. Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias has been subpoenaed over his role in setting up a meeting between Mrs. Jarrett and Mr. Balanoff. The trial thrusts back into the spotlight convicted Chicago felon and Obama booster Tony Rezko. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin was subpoenaed over his own call with Mr. Blagojevich about the seat. Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett (a former aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley) has been subpoenaed. So has White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who has become entangled (though not charged) in a separate accusation that Mr. Blagojevich sought to trade favors with him when he was a Chicago congressman.

All those subpoenas thrown out there by the Blago defense team, including one for Alexi Giannoulias, may be about to come home to roost.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chicago Tribune Adapts to Early Voting By Accelerating Candidate Interview Schedule for Endorsements

Early voting, with no 'reason' needed, has been with us here in Illinois for a few cycles now, and as someone who has been involved with several campaigns, I have seen that it has had a profound impact on campaign scheduling and strategy, compared to the old days when 99% of a campaign's effort was geared up to building momentum and getting out the vote on Election Day. Now Election Day stretches for over two weeks, and (for the upcoming November 2, 2010 general election) begins on October 11, 2010.

Given that the primary is now so early, it's not that candidates are pressed for time to get their campaigns up and running. They have more than enough time (in total) to campaign, for sure. But, due to early voting, savvy candidates must have had their say before the voters weeks before Election Day, in order to capture votes from the many folks who have decided to take advantage of the convenience of early voting. Mail campaigns must be adapted, literature must be printed and in the hands of willing precinct committeemen, and the major debates and public appearances have to all reflect that the first day at the polls is now essentially three weeks earlier in the cycle.

Up until now, most newspapers have not adapted to this accelerated election schedule, with most print endorsements coming out well after early voting begins. This has lessened the influence of endorsements (which arguably have long been on the wane anyway) on several levels, from the perspective of the newspaper editorial boards' ability to influence voters, gain revenue from advertising once candidates are awarded endorsements and wish to tout them, and a little free advertising for the newspaper's benefit, as the lucky candidates send reams of direct mail all around their district to brag about their endorsements, usually with eye-catching mock-ups of newspaper mastheads and headlines.

So, finally, it seems some of the newspapers have gotten the message that their interview and endorsement schedules simply aren't keeping up with the times, and are now contacting candidates to get a jumpstart on the traditional fall interview process. I received this e-mail from one such candidate:

Dear Candidate:

The Chicago Tribune this year is beginning its endorsement process for the Nov. 2 election earlier than it has in the past. We want to give guidance to the growing number of early voters. We also want to give endorsed candidates time to use our endorsements in their campaigns. Therefore, we are scheduling some interviews now, in July and August, even before our questionnaires have gone out. You are a candidate I would like to meet. Please contact me at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX to schedule an interview. If we do not hear from you by July 14, our intern, XXXXXXXX, will contact you.

Thank you so much.

Pat Widder

Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

So, it seems like the Tribune, at least, is trying to adapt to the times. Whether this move helps to retain some relevance of newspaper editorial board endorsements remains to be seen, but at least this election cycle, candidates and voters may have a chance to take such endorsements into account before the voting begins.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Former 10th District Congressman John Porter Endorses Bob Dold

This came out yesterday, but here it is - from the Dold Campaign:

Former Illinois 10th District Congressman John Edward Porter Endorses Dold

Winnetka, IL – Today, former Illinois 10th District Congressman John Edward Porter announced his endorsement of Robert Dold for the Congressional seat Porter held for twenty years.

“Robert Dold is an independent Republican who mirrors the values of the 10th District,” said Porter. “He will be a voice for common-sense, small business thinking, with a moderate stance on social issues such as choice and the environment.”

Porter noted recent endorsements by the National Federation of Independent Business and the Republican Majority for Choice in announcing his endorsement of Dold.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of John Porter,” said Dold. “John served our District honorably for many years and shares my pro-choice position. It is a tradition of fiscally conservative, socially moderate leadership that I will continue in Washington.”

“The 10th district voters are very educated on the issues and look for a Congressman who will vote the conscience of the district, rather than straight for the party,” said Porter. “Robert Dold will be the independent and thoughtful voice that 10th district voters want.”

Porter served in Congress from 1980 to 2001. Since leaving office, he has served as a Washington partner in the international law firm, Hogan Lovells. He is Chairman of Research America, Vice Chairman of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, and a trustee of The Brookings Institution. He recently completed a two-year term as Chairman of PBS.

About Robert Dold:

Robert Dold owns and operates a small business, Rose Pest Solutions, located in Northfield, IL. A graduate of New Trier High School, Dold earned a law degree from Indiana University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He worked on Capitol Hill as investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee before returning to the 10th Congressional District to work and raise his family.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

November is Coming, and So Is the Tea Party

Yesterday I attended the first rally of the Lake County Tea Party in Libertyville, which was by any measure a big success. It was one of those events where I didn't know whether to expect 20 people or 200, but the Daily Herald pegged the number of attendees at 500 (ABC-7 sent a camera crew and stated the attendance at 100 on its newscast last night, but that was clearly an error, as the crowd pix below show). The News-Sun said over 200, but I'd say it was way over that. The weather held off and it turned out to be a hot but breezy afternoon in Cook Memorial Park, a perfect venue for the gathering.

The event began with Tea Party organizer Paul Mitchell, who recently lost a primary election bid for State Rep. against incumbent Sandy Cole. Nevertheless, Mitchell belted out a great rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, and began to introduce the long line of speakers, including Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler (who gave a short welcoming address), Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, State Senator and candidate for Governor, Bill Brady, 8th congressional candidate Joe Walsh, and many others.

I could only stick around for about the first hour and a half of the event, since I had to get home and cook for yet another family barbecue, but I would say that the common theme of most of the event's speakers was taking back control of the government and getting a handle on out-of-control government spending. Most of the people in the crowd were fairly regular folks who came out because they are extremely concerned about the direction our country is headed, and believe that the course towards an ever-inflated and bloated federal government must be reversed. While there were definitely some more 'extreme' folks in the crowd, most of the people I saw and talked to were just your average neighborly folks, and many were not otherwise involved in politics. That being said, the Lake County Republicans had a strong presence there; in addition to being a co-sponsor of the event, many regular GOP candidates and officials attended and also spoke.

As I mentioned to the Herald, if the Democrats simply think that the tea party movement is just a bunch of lunatics, I suppose they can keep on thinking that, but they may be in for a big surprise in November at the polls. People are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.

Remember the last time the entire country was very upset with the direction of things and went to the polls to demand "change"? We elected a new president, Barack Obama. Well, this time, the shoe may be on the other foot, and the change people are looking for won't be working to the Dems' advantage, so much.

Here are some photos of the event:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bob Dold and Lake County GOP Make Strong Showing In Lake Bluff; Dan Seals AWOL

I had a great seat for the Lake Bluff 4th of July parade this morning. The Lake County Republicans all made a great showing, while the Dems were few and far between. With the exception of State Senator Susan Garrett, State Rep. Karen May, and county clerk candidate Laura Tomsky, that was about it. No Dan Seals, even though this is right in the core of the 10th District. He probably was at the Highland Park parade, which is probably much more of a friendly audience (there were about 120 parade entries and I bugged out at 100 or so, so I guess there could have been some Team Seals reps bringing up the rear, but if there were, I did not spot 'em).

Among the parade highlights were some civil war re-enactors, the Caputo's Cheese Truck, lots and lots of cheerleaders and drum corps marchers, and of course, our GOP candidates: Bob Dold for the 10th Congressional District, Sheriff Mark Curran, State Rep. Candidate Lauren Turelli, and many more. The Women's Republican Club of Lake Forest/Lake Bluff also had a bunch of "Freedom Umbrella" marchers with some take-back-our-government type signs. Check out my pix:

Lake County Tea Party to Host Weekend Rally in Libertyville

First off, let me wish everyone a wonderful 4th of July! I was watching fireworks last night with some friends who happen to be English, and one of them offered his "commiseration on your separation from the Commonwealth." Boy, those English still haven't gotten over it, have they?

I think we have always enjoyed our special relationship with the British, especially since we have shown our character by going back and bailing them out of world conquest every couple decades, after we whupped 'em in the 1700s. Of course, that relationship seems in jeopardy now given President Obama's attitude toward the British, but that's a post for another day.

Meanwhile, we have mentioned this before, but on Monday, the Lake County Tea Party will be hosting a huge rally in Libertyville (an appropriate place for such a rally). There appears to be a lot of interest in this event, and many local politicians will be in attendance (mostly from the right, far right, and so-right-they-have-almost-come-around-to-the-left). I've reprinted their flyer below for convenience if you plan to attend.

The tea-party movement, while suffering from the scorn of the elite left (a sign of fear, no doubt, as people always criticize what they fear or don't understand), is really starting to get some traction as there appears to be a solidifying national theme of cutting spending and the deficit as the top priority, which now mirrors that of many Americans, says the Wall Street Journal. So far, the movement has not seemed to catch on a lot around here, but we will see if tomorrow's event marks a new beginning for the movement that could have a strong effect on local November elections.

Lake County TEA Party

Join us for a TEA Party in Libertyville July 5th,
1-4pm Downtown Cook Park
“Liberty in the Park”

Come out to the very first Lake County Tea Party! Bring your homemade signs, your chairs or blankets, your patriotism, CELEBRATE LIBERTY, and listen to speakers talk about freedom and limited constitutional government!

Speakers to include:

• Bill Brady, Tentative, Republican Candidate for Governor
Lex Green, Libertarian Candidate for Governor
• Ed Rutledge, Libertarian Candidate for Lt. Governor
• David Schippers, Constitutional lawyer
• Mark Curran, Lake County Sherriff
• Terry Weppler, Mayor of Libertyville
• Joe Calomino, Americans For Prosperity - Illinois State Director
• Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director, For The Good of Illinois and Mayor of Long Grove
• Bruno Behrend,, former host of the Extreme Wisdom radio show on WKRS
• Michael Carbone, Grayslake Dist. 46 school board member, Lake County TEA Party board member
• Robert Cook, Lake County Republican Chairman
• Rosanna Pulido, Director, Illinois Minuteman Project
• Pastor Richard Valkanet, Living Waters Assembly of God Church, Grayslake
• Steve Tucker, Health industry expert
• Randall Stufflebeam, Constitution Party nominee for U.S. Senator
• Julie Fox, Libertarian Party nominee for Comptroller
• Dan Sugrue, Republican nominee for State Representative, 59th District
• Paul Mitchell, Lake County TEA Party board member, Lake County Right to Life Board member
• Peter Karlovics, Lake County Board Member
• James Pittman, Associate Pastor of New Hope Community Church

Thank you to our Celebration Sponsors:
* Conservative Magazine of IL * AFP * Lake County Republican Party *
* Dan Duffy Campaign * Lake County Young Republicans * William Fraser *
* Lake County Right to Life * Lex Green Campaign * Truth in Accounting

Thank you to our fellow Freedom Patriots:
* Northern IL Patriots * Lake County 9-12 Patriots * Schaumburg Tea Party *
* Palatine Tea Party * The Great Awakening * Chicago Tea Patriots *
* Illinois Conservatives *

Lake County Tea
Info@Lake County Tea

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Congressman Mark Kirk Raises $2.3 Million in Q2

Politico is reporting that Congressman Mark Kirk raised $2.3 million in the second quarter, even more than in Q1 ($2.2 million).

The Politico story also quoted a source close to the Kirk campaign as stating that Kirk raised $1 million in June alone, which is, of course, when Kirk was suffering a series of negative headlines and press coverage regarding mistakes he made in citing his military record, for which he has apologized.

It will be very telling to see how Alexi Giannoulias, his Democratic opponent, did in his Q2 fundraising. Unless Alexi shows a big Q2 with an impressive June, his inability to capitalize on Kirk's misfortunes will let a lot of wind out of his sails.