Could this be the day Alexi Giannoulias finally starts behaving like a senator?
Giannoulias has been on the offensive for nearly a month, as he’s forced Mark Kirk to answer for exaggerating his military record, then his teaching record. But Giannoulias has reached the bottom of Kirk’s resume, unless he forces him to prove he really earned that beekeeping merit badge.
While those attacks have dragged Kirk down, they haven't lifted Giannoulias. Even though he now has a bare lead in the polls, his negative ratings are as high as ever. He’s only winning because he’s succeeded in making Kirk equally unpopular.
In politics, they say you can’t beat somebody with nobody (caveat: South Carolina Senate races). If Giannoulias wants to exploit his momentum, he’s going to have to prove he’s better than Kirk, not just that he’s no worse.
Two events today give him that chance. The first is a fundraiser with Vice President Joe Biden. Giannoulias has been desperate for the White House’s imprimatur, and a visit from the number-two guy shows they’ve finally gotten over the idea of dumping him for Lisa Madigan, and consider him a viable candidate. Biden’s appearance comes nine days before the June 30 quarterly filing deadline for campaign contributions. Giannoulias raised $1 million less than Kirk in the first quarter, which added to his loser luster.
(This is the second time Giannoulias has gotten as assist from Biden. During the 2008 presidential primaries, Biden complained that every word out of Rudy Giuliani’s mouth was “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” Giannoulias adapted that to “a noun, a verb and Broadway Bank” to describe Mark Kirk’s campaign rhetoric.)
Also today, Giannoulias and Kirk are both speaking on regional planning and environmental issues at the Metropolitan Planning Council. Giannoulias is still seen as a callow lightweight – he’s 34, he’s served less than one term as state treasurer, he owes his position in life to his family’s banking fortune, and his bad judgment may have contributed to the bank’s collapse. Giannoulias has a chance to prove he’s un homme serioux by speaking intelligently on the issues.
Giannoulias has gone as far as he can with the attacks on Kirk. From here on out, he’s going to have to start selling himself.