Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Daily Herald Casts Doubt on Eligibility of Democratic IL-10 Hopeful, But Does It Matter?

Russell Lissau at the Daily Herald did some innovative sleuthing and discovered that one of the dark horse Democratic candidates in the contest to win their party's nomination to take on incumbent Congressman Bob Dold, Aloys Rutagwibira, may not actually meet Constitutional requirements for holding this office:

Aloys Rutagwibira, 53, of Hainesville, is a native of Rwanda who became a naturalized American citizen on July 6, 2006, according to voter registration records acquired by the Daily Herald.

Congressional service requires seven years of citizenship. Rutagwibira won't be eligible until July 2013.

Read the whole article. Apparently, Rutagwibira did not react kindly to Mr. Lissau's inquiries.

Hmm. Maybe Rutagwibira never heard the old saw about how you should never argue with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.

But, will this really matter? Rutagwibira is apparently such an outside shot that the only poll we have even heard about in IL-10 on the Dem side did not even include him. Not to mention that fact that, as Lissau notes, there is currently a challenge pending to Rutagwibira's petitions based on lack of sufficient valid signatures on his nominating petitions.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Checking in With Senator Mark Kirk... and the News is Good (UPDATED)

I checked in with Senator Mark Kirk's campaign chairman, Michael Morgan, this afternoon, and I think the news on Senator Kirk is very good, considering. I was a bit concerned, as I have been hearing in some circles up here in Lake County that the public reports about Kirk have been a bit whitewashed, and that the Senator was in far graver condition than was generally being reported. I am happy to say that such is not the case, and that Kirk is progressing very well.

Clearly, there will be quite a recovery ahead for Mark, but it appears that things are going well for right now, so I for one am breathing a little easier today.

UPDATED: I saw the Trib just posted a feature on the issues and challenges with rehabilitation after a stroke. No new info on Kirk's condition in the article, but it offers some interesting experiences from several people who have had to confront such a challenge -- bottom line, few recoveries are identical.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lake County Republican Federation Hosts Candidate Forum for GOP County Office Candidates

This morning, the Lake County Republican Federation hosted the Republican candidates for the county-wide offices (State's Attorney, Coroner, Recorder of Deeds, and Circuit Court Clerk) to a packed room at the Deerpath Inn in Lake Forest.

Yours truly emcee'd the event, which kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance by my friend Circuit Court Judge Daniel B. Shanes. I noted in my opening remarks that the event was one of our regular "Leadership Council" breakfasts, which are a complimentary thank-you to the Federation's top donors - Our Gold, Silver and Bronze Circle donors. I didn't really need to sell those in attendance on the mission of the Federation, but I took a minute to note that the funds raised by the Federation allow us to to staff and maintain a professional, full-time headquarters, that is accessible for meetings, candidate support, voter outreach and provides a base of operations, in addition to financial and project support to the Republican Central Committee.

I then provided a brief update on Senator Mark Kirk's condition, and Lake County Republican Chairman Bob Cook provided the customary recognition of elected officials and candidates (although in a room full of candidates, Bob joked that it might be simpler if he just introduced those few who did not seem to be running for something!) We then we got right into the program.

The format of the breakfast was a candidate forum in which we asked each of the candidates to come up and give a 3-4 minute talk on themselves and why they felt each was the best candidate for his or her office. A brief Q&A session followed each set of candidates. Almost all of the candidates attended, including:

State's Attorney Candidates: Louise Hayes, Mike Nerheim and Bryan Winter

Coroner Candidate: Steve Newton

Circuit Court Court Clerk Candidates: Keith Brin and Jerry Dietz

Record of Deeds Candidates: Bob Bednar and Marty Blumenthal

One of the other points I made in my comments was on the value of primaries. While most candidates (maybe all of them) really dislike (hate?) them and really wish they had no opponent, primaries can serve very important purposes in that they give us, the voters, a real choice among candidates who share our values and philosophy, to enable us to make individual decisions about who we feel is the best candidate.

On the candidate side, it tends to make people work harder, earlier, raise money and refine their skills and message. While it can be expensive and demanding, by and large, the winners of primaries tend to emerge battle tested and in a better position to take on the Democratic nominee. Above all, primaries need not be destructive, if conducted with honor and professionalism, and if we call pledge to come together after the race to support the successful nominee against their Democrat counterpart in the fall general election.

Based on the enthusiasm in the room and the quality of our GOP candidates for office, I have no doubt in my mind that if the Republicans can get their message out, we will enjoy great success at the polls come this November.

So, as you have come to expect, here are the pix:

Jan Zobus came to represent both Senator Mark Kirk and Congressman Bob Dold

County Board Candidate Jeff Werfel, Coroner Candidate Steve Newton and County Board Candidate Scott Helton

Everyone had a great time chatting, networking and noshing.

County Board Chairman David Stolman and former Lt. Governor Corrine Wood.

Circuit Court Clerk Candidates Jerry Dietz and Keith Brin take questions after their presentations.

Here's Keith Brin chatting with attorney Mark Shaw, who came to represent State Rep. Candidate Lauren Turelli.

Here's a long shot of the room with me, Recorder of Deeds Candidates Marty Blumenthal and Bob Bednar during Q&A.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mark Kirk Update - So Far, So Good

The news we are getting on Senator Mark Kirk seems quite positive, considering. Here is an update from the Daily Herald, and you can see video of a noontime update from Kirk's doctor on the NBC-5 website here.

I think many of us got a bit of a chuckle when we heard today that Mark asked for his Blackberry - the two thoughts that came to my mind, were, 'how typical' and, better yet, 'that has to be a good sign.'

I confess my enthusiasm got the better of me and I fired off an e-mail to his private e-mail address, thinking there might be some chance he would read it, but I felt a little foolish after considering he's probably in no shape to actually ready anything right now, and, moreover, I then heard that the doctors (wisely) had refused his request.

So far, so good. It will be a long road, no doubt, but so far, there appears to be no reason not to hope that Mark will not be the 'same old Mark,' at least mentally, who we all know and respect.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Senator Mark Kirk Recovering After Stroke Surgery

From Mark Kirk's Press Office:

Statement on Senator Kirk's Medical Condition
CHICAGO - A spokesperson for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) today released the following statement regarding the Senator's medical condition: 
"On Saturday, Senator Kirk checked himself into Lake Forest Hospital, where doctors discovered a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck.  He was transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where further tests revealed that he had suffered an ischemic stroke.  Early this morning the Senator underwent surgery to relieve swelling around his brain stemming from the stroke. The surgery was successful. Due to his young age, good health and the nature of the stroke, doctors are very confident in the Senator's recovery over the weeks ahead."
To answer questions regarding Senator Kirk's condition and prognosis, his doctors will hold a press conference at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Wow, that's a complete shock. I am sending prayers and well wishes to Senator Kirk for a speedy recovery and hope you do the same.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hinz Clues In to John Tree Foreclosure Fiasco In IL-10 (UPDATED with Sheyman Fundraising Numbers)

As simply an amateur, part-time political blogger, it's always nice to see the MSM pick up on something that you broke, oh a few months ago, finally get some attention.

This time, it's Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business who has picked up on the personal problems of 10th Congressional District Democratic hopeful John Tree. We reported on this back in mid-November of last year. We might add that, at that time, Hinz was gushing over Tree as having a resume out of central casting. We, of course, did some digging and figured out about the foreclosure, among other troublesome bits of his personal history (Tree, not Hinz).

Hinz's research (which may have been spoon-fed to him by the campaign of Brad Schneider, one of Tree's primary opponents), however, uncovered even more than we reported, which is that in addition to the foreclosure of a home in Elmhurst associated with his first marriage, there is also, according to Hinz, a foreclosure proceeding currently going on with respect to his current home with his second wife (got all that?).

There's a little more, though. When confronted by Hinz for the story, Tree's campaign manager, Pete Giangrco, tried to explain away the first foreclosure on the Elmhurst house by noting that Tree's wife, not Tree, lived in it:

Pete Giangreco, the campaign's chief consultant, says that only Mr. Tree's ex-wife, not Mr. Tree himself, actually lived in the first house and the bank involved ended up accepting an outside sale.

I'm not sure why that's actually relevant, but I assume the implication here is that the house was occupied solely by Lisa Tree, John Tree's first wife, and the foreclosure was all her problem and fault, not his. I guess this was supposed to be where she lived without John Tree either during/after the divorce? The Hinz article does not go into any additional detail.

But, something doesn't add up. According to what we can see on the web, the Elmhurst house was purchased (by John Tree) for a tidy sum ($985,000). That's quite a set of digs to buy for your soon-to-be-ex-wife. The purchase date was 6/30/2005, assuming that info is accurate.

According to the DuPage County Court Clerk's site, though, the Tree/Tree divorce wasn't filed until August 2006.

So, John Tree bought his wife a house a year prior to their divorce being filed, for almost a million bucks, but he never lived in it?

If I were Brad Schneider's campaign, I'd keep digging and feeding Hinz that info. Hopefully we helped him out a bit. No thanks are necessary.

UPDATE: Steve Sadin at Patch reports that Ilya Sheyman's camp stated that he has raised $180,000 for the past quarter, crushing John Tree's $101,000 (of which $20K was a candidate contribution). Sheyman also got the endorsement of the Libertyville Democrats and the Lake County Federation of Teachers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Sneaky" Pete Couvall Endorses Democrat John Tree for Congress in IL-10

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, who never misses a chance to carry water for the Dems, plugs Democratic congressional hopeful John Tree (who is running for the Dem nomination to take on Congressman Bob Dold in the November general election) by reposting a Tree press release touting his past quarter's fundraising and listing some new endorsements.

We can see how his fundraising stacks up against the other major Dem hopefuls, such as Ilya Sheyman and Brad Schneider, once they release their results (although I would suggest that Tree's $80K raised and $20K self-contribution ain't much to crow about), but I got a really evil chuckle after reading down his press release and seeing that one of the new top endorsements that Tree is bragging about is none other than our old friend and well-known Democratic hatchetman for Terry Link, "Sneaky" Pete Couvall:

I just never get tired of reposting that video.

You all remember Pete Couvall, right? His most recent claim to infamy was his hiring of two campaign workers to collect signatures for State Senator Terry Link, which workers ended up being indicted and pleading guilty when it was discovered that they had forged the names (some right out of the phone book, as well as a sampling of dead folks) on Link's nominating petitions in 2008.

I really thought Link and Couvall were going to go down in flames for that, but they somehow managed to escape lasting taint, and that dynamic duo has certainly not shied away from continuing involvement in politics.

Many folks in Waukegan could go on for hours with stories about Couvall, but I would venture to say that except for the folks who are directly involved and support the Link-Couvall power structure up there, Tree may lose half the Democratic voters in Waukegan (where Ilya Sheyman seems to be particulary strong, by the way) by associating himself with Couvall. Couvall has had a history of supporting questionable candidates and officials, including, among others, former Lake County Coroner Richard Keller (another guily plea there).

Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but for a guy who is seeking to take on a reformer mantle, I'm a bit surprised that Tree is out there looking for support from the likes of Couvall. Wow.

GOP Township Endorsements Rolling In for Primary Candidates

Over the past few days, my inbox has been inundated by various GOP candidates touting their endorsements by the various Township Republican organizations. If you are a GOP candidate with a primary opponent, such endorsements can be a nice boost for your campaign and give you an edge over your opponent. At the very least, it gives you an excuse to send out a press release and something to say on your literature. I think the newspaper endorsements still carry more weight among the general public, but since primaries are run in Illinois along party lines, the endorsement of several Republican groups can be quite helpful, if you have enough money and manpower to inform the primary voters. Such endorsements are certainly not something that usually makes it into the newspaper, so candidates are on their own for publicizing such things.

For the uninitiated (and I had someone ask me a question about this just yesterday), such endorsements are given by the township Republican organization, which is the official GOP organization for each township (in other words, it has nothing to do with the elected township government officials, such as Township Supervisor, highway commissioner, assessor, etc.). The Township GOP organization is made up of elected and appointed precinct committeemen, and these committeemen select a chairman of the Township organization. Again, these are all positions only within the Republican Party, and the Dems have a mirror structure on their side, doing pretty much the same thing.

The way most Township Republican groups run their endorsement sessions goes like this: First, the Township organization decides among themselves if they will do endorsements at all. Many do, but some don't, and some switch back on forth every cycle. It's all up to the committeemen who hold those posts at the time. Next, the organization invites each candidate to come to an 'endorsement session,' which is a meeting of the group (often a Saturday morning) where the candidates come and are given 5 minutes or so to make their stump speech and take questions. The committeemen then vote after all the presentations are done, and a certain majority of the vote is needed to endorse a candidate (the exact percentage of the vote needed is again up to the committeemen to decide amongst themselves -- for example, Cuba Township requires 67% --, and the vote is usually 'weighted', which means that precinct committeemen who had more people turn out in their precinct to vote in the last election get a weighted vote based on those results). Still with me? Well, that's the open side of the story. The 'backroom' part of the story is that candidates often work their personal relationships and lobby the individual committeemen to try to gain supporters and form coalitions to obtain the endorsement, all before the actual endorsement session. Nothing wrong with this, in my view; that's just the way it works. Many committeemen (and I used to be one, myself), find this welcome and flattering, and say that it's the only time during the year that they get any attention! (there aren't a lot of perks in being a committeeman, but this is apparently one of them).

In any case, this is by no means supposed to be a comprehensive list (and we're only concentrating on contested primaries), and feel free to self-report in comments, but here is a select few (all listed 'Townships' are the Township Republican Organization for each such township and should not be confused with the government of the township itself):

Keith Brin for Circuit Court Clerk: Endorsed by Libertyville, Cuba and Wauconda Townships

Lauren Turelli for State Rep., 58th Dist.: Endorsed by New Trier Township

David McSweeney for State Rep. 52nd Dist: Endorsed by Cuba and Wauconda Townships

Dan Donahue for County Board: Endorsed by Libertyville Township

Bryan Winter for Lake County State's Attorney: Endorsed by Wauconda Township, Cuba Township and Libertyville Township (with a very rare unanimous endorsement from Libertyville)

Steve Newton for Coroner: Endorsed by Wauconda, Cuba and Libertyville Townships

Nick Sauer for County Board: Endorsed by Wauconda Township

Bob Bednar for Lake County Recorder of Deeds: Endorsed by Cuba and Libertyville Township

Adding... GOP candidate Don Castella took a bit of a hit this morning in the Daily Herald, with an article about a personal Facebook post Castella made regarding his religous viewpoint that gays must 'repent.' Given the opening, Castella's opponent, incumbent State Senator Terry Link was quick to respond, calling Castella' comments, "mind-boggling." While I support Castella against Link, I think that I, along with many Republicans, don't support Don's views on this issue. Even Lake County GOP Chairman Bob Cook was quick to distance himself and the party from them, saying that Castella's views "are not the views of the Republican Party." On the other hand, Castella is entitled to his religious views, just as Senator Link is, and it's worth noting that neither candidate seems to have sought to inject their religious views into the campaign (the DH article notes that the comment from Castella was made from his personal, not campaign, Facebook account, and Link stated in the article that he doesn't want religious issues to be a focus of the campaign due to the separation of church and state).

I'm sure we will be hearing more on this issue, but I think it's interesting that Terry Link is even responding to questions concerning Castella at this point, as Link seems to have always viewed himself as invincible in his district and barely seems to have acknowledged GOP challengers in the past.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Not Sure" Is the Clear Winner In 10th District Dem Poll

The first Dem poll of the new year in the hot race for the Tenth Congressional District here in Illinois was conducted between January 3-4, 2012, of 410 likely Democratic voters, and the results are not too surprising:

Ilya Sheyman...........23%

Brad Schneider.........21%

John Tree...................5%

Vivek Bavda...............2%

Not sure.......................49%

The poll itself was conducted by Public Policy Polling, but was commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) PAC, which is supporting Ilya Sheyman. The relatively small poll sample, and the huge margin of error (+/- 4.8%), leads us to think we ought not put too much stock into this particular poll. Also, the fact that Ilya Sheyman and Brad Schneider are statistically tied leads one to think that aside from the suggestion (pushed by PCCC) that Democratic voters in the 10th are looking for a 'bold progressive' candidate, there might not be much here to talk about.

However, some of the policy/position questions asked and the responses are rather interesting; for example, when asked about whether Israel was at the top of voters' concerns, only 4% responded yes, compared to 37% each for Wall Street 'accountability' and job creation.

The biggest take-away from this poll is that it's still wide open, and all of the candidates have some work to do to get their message out. As we have been saying for some time, Ilya Sheyman still seems to be the front-runner with the advantage of the best ground-game and volunteer base. He's positioned himself as the most leftist, 'progressive' candidate (whatever that means), so if he can finally start raising some real money to get in people's mailboxes, he's got a real good chance. Veteran and businessman John Tree had a surprisingly poor showing in this poll; despite hiring some expensive consultants and trying to make a big splash out of the box, he doesn't seem to be getting much traction, at least according to this poll (which, again, we're not putting a lot of faith in).

Since a group supporting Sheyman paid for the poll, you can bet that he is touting it, but Schneider is not taking it lying down. So far, no response from the Tree campaign that we know of. He's probably just trying to forget it exists. Or maybe his expensive handlers haven't told him yet, for fear that Tree will get some sense and pull out, and cut off his paid hack team's gravy train.

"Not Sure", of course, is the real winner here. Where's a Dan Seals when the Dems need him? Hahahahahah.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Race To Succeed Karen May Starting To Get Interesting: Turelli and Neerhof Wage Fundraising Battle

One of the more exciting races in northern Illinois is bound to be the race to succeed retiring State Representative Karen May, in the newly-redrawn 58th District. The lone Democrat who has filed, interestingly, is former prosecutor Scott Drury, who TA readers will remember dropped out (was coaxed out?) of the race for Lake County State's Attorney in a crowded field of candidates. You may also remember that Drury's first campaign tag-line since moving from the SA race was that he is "fed up" with Springfield. We suggested a while back that he may want to re-think that slogan, since his party is the one we have to blame for the current state of affairs down in the State Capitol.

Things are even more interesting on the Republican side, though, as two strong candidates are poised to duke it out for the GOP nomination. On one hand is Lauren Turelli, who ran a strong race against Karen May last cycle (getting an appreciable percentage of the vote against the seemingly unbeatable May), and on the other, Dr. Mark Neerhof, who recently issued a press release touting his fundraising results for this past quarter.

According to Neerhof's press release, Neerhof raised/"invested" nearly $75,000 in a traditionally slow fundraising quarter. Neerhof is campaiging from a conservative platform, emphasizing tort reform, pension reform, and reversing the Democrats 66% state income tax increase. Neerhof also hit the mailboxes in the District with this piece:

Despite the fact that Tureli ran a good race against May last cycle, she apparently was not planning to challenge May again, instead opting for a county board run. With May's decision not to run, Turelli quickly reassessed the race, and decided to jump in after securing promises of support from many local prominent Republicans, as well as the House Republican Organization (HRO).

I spoke with Turelli's campaign chairman, attorney Mark Shaw, yesterday, and he told me that Turelli had raised more than $30,000, and pointed out several things about Neerhof's claimed numbers. First, according to the disclosure forms filed by Neerhof, $45,000 of that $75,000 noted above came from the candidate himself in the form of loans or contributions to the campaign. Second, the disclosures also reveal a small number of large contributions ($1,000 or more) from a small number of people (about 10 contributors). In contrast, said Shaw, Turelli's contributions came from almost 60 donors, and does not include any large loans or contributions from the candidate herself.

Shaw also told me, oficially, that "we're glad to see that there's a lot of interest in this race, which we believe is the result of Lauren's previous campaign against Karen May last cycle."

Shaw told me that, even with HRO in Turelli's corner, they were by no means resting on their laurels and counting on Turelli's name recognition and candidate profile to carry them through an easy primary. "She's going to continue campaiging on the issues she ran on last time, and we're going to be competitive in fundraising," he said. "She's out there working every day."

Monday, January 2, 2012

State Senator Dan Duffy Reaches Out on the South Side

"I'm from Barrington, and I don't need your vote," State Senator Dan Duffy told folks at a south side barbershop recently, "but I'm here because I vote on legislation that impacts your community. I want you to ask me questions," he said.

Kerry Lester has a great feature on State Senator Dan Duffy in this morning's Daily Herald, in which she chronicles Duffy's efforts to reach beyond the confines of his own constituents in northern Illinois, as have several other legislators who are participating in a program organized by the nonpartisan Young Government organization, which brings in groups of legislators to African-American communities.

Duffy also noted that the Republican party needs to do a better job of reaching out to African-Americans, many of whom, Duffy has learned, think that the Republicans "have just written off" blacks, which obviously impacts the GOP's ability overall to build bridges and a broader base of support statewide.

Is a statewide race in Duffy's future? As Duffy mentioned to Kerry Lester, "If people are going to win statewide offices, then... you need to be receiving votes and building relationships in the African-American communities."

Well, even if Duffy is more concerned about the success of the Illinois GOP in general, rather than any statewide ambtitions of his own, it's great that Republicans like Duffy are really starting to get the idea of reaching out to minorities to learn about their concerns and problems, and figuring out how to give them an option beyond the Democrats.

Did I mention that Duffy is a fellow Augustana grad and fraternity brother? Well, now I have. ;-)

And, yes, I know the photo is from a Libertyville parade, not a south side barbershop, but that's the best photo I had. You can see Duffy's outreach photos on the DH website along with the full article.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year and a Look at the Presidential Matchup

Happy New Year to everyone, and our best wishes here at Team America to you all for a happy and prosperous one!

First, a housekeeping item from The Management:

Regular readers will note off late that, as sometimes happens, tempers in comments can flash a bit in the vigorous give-and-take among commentors that we usually encourage. Lately, though, some of it's gotten a little out of hand and, frankly, is getting a little stupid and irritating.

We like having viewpoints challenged, records of candidates and politicians examined and debated, and healthy debate about the issues of the day (try to get fair treatment like that on a liberal blog).

But when the back-and-forth degenerates to simple 'I know you are (or your side/party/whatever is) but what am I?', the blog becomes a lot less fun to read and participate in. So, I'm giving everyone fair warning that comments that are just juvenile and have no redeeming intellectual value are going to be deleted. If you have something of value to add to the discussion, regardless of your viewpoint (and our track record proves that we respect all comers who have something intelligent to say), it'll be recognized. If not, see ya.

'Nuf 'Sed.

Now, to the topic of the day. We don't spend a ton of time on national politics here, as other forums can do that a lot better; the focus of this blog has really always been local Tenth District/Lake County stuff. But, we can't ignore the fact that this is a presidential election year, and numerous comments have already noted the downballot effect that the presidential race will have on our local elections, particularly in the 10th Congressional District. It's still an eternity in politics 'till the November election, and we don't even have a clear Republican nominee yet. But, the latest polling in Iowa shows Romney to be the front-runner, which position was in doubt for much of the past 60 days, with Rick Santorum coming on strong.

What does that mean? My personal thought it that undecided Republicans are finally getting to the point where they must make a decision (and Iowans largely show respect their first-in-the-nation status by putting a lot of thought and consideration into their votes, and demand the candidates show up in person to defend themselves and their platforms), and while many Mom and Pop Republicans have flitted from candidate to candidate to give them a 'test drive,' the closer the actual caucus vote comes, the more the question shifts to who will have the best chance in November to beat Obama. The fast answer to that question, almost from the first day of this cycle, seems to have be Romney, and the latest Rasmussen polling seems to support the notion that Romney in fact has a good shot to dethrown Obama. But, Hillary also figured she was the 'inevitable' candidate, and look what happened there.

We saw what happened to Newt Gingrich's lead in Iowa evaporate after about $8 million in negative ads flooded the airwaves; similarly, once Team Obama gets back to focusing on Romney as the clear GOP nominee (which they have taken only baby steps towards so far) with about a billion dollars to smash him with, we'll have to see where those head-to-head numbers look in September-October.

Anyway, getting back to my original point, what does everyone think the impact of the Presidential race will have on our local candidates across the board? My sense tells me that there is going to be a serious enthusiasm gap among the Democrats in rallying to Obama's banner this time around. He's gravely disappointed many of his most fervent followers, and his strategy now must be to create fear in his supporters that, as disappointing as he's been, the other side would be far worse, repealing ObamaCare, cutting taxes for the billionaires, and turning their backs on the poor and middle class. Will that message drive Dems to the polls this fall? It remains to be seen, but I have always suspected that in Illinois, now that people have gotten the historic thrill out of voting once for Obama out of their systems, and knowing that it's almost certain that Obama will win Illinois no matter what, Obama's coattails in this state will be quite short (more common people than you might think apparently understand that under the Electoral College system, as long as Obama is thought to be a lock on the state already, it gives all but the most zealous 2008 Obama supporters a great excuse to keep their money, avoid working the race, and maybe even finding more important things to do on election day).

Given that a moderate Republican like Mark Kirk has shown he can win the state, perhaps Obama should not be quite so complacent. But, in any case, unless the local Dems show up to the polls in some serious force this fall, local pols like Congressman Bob Dold have more than a fighting chance, even in some of these new districts.

One of the side stories in this race I have been watching with interest is speculation that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will switch VP-SOS roles, and this will be matched up against whatever GOP candidates wins the nomination with former SOS Condolezza Rice.

I think both these scenarios are possible; Obama will play the Hillary card only if he feels so desperate that he thinks Hillary is his only lifeline to a second term; his ego won't allow him to go down that road unless he's convinced it's the only option (watch, though, the public story will be that it's all because Uncle Joe Biden just really would rather be SOS, and heck, Obama's a nice guy so he agreed to throw Joe a bone -- or some other ridiculous rationalization. Bleech.)

Okay, enough musings from me. What do y'all think?