Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Anxiety-Fueled Dick Durbin Joins Hillary Clinton Fundraiser in Chicago

The Illinois Democrat, hoping to hold onto his Senate seat, has endorsed the popular former Secretary of State for president

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Anxiety-Fueled Dick Durbin Joins Hillary Clinton Fundraiser in Chicago

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Senator Dick Durbin is boarding the Hillary Clinton-for-president bandwagon.

The Illinois Democrat joins Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the list of bold-faced names slated to attend a splashy June 5 fundraiser for the Ready for Hillary SuperPAC. The event will take place at Phil Stefani's steakhouse on Rush Street, with a $1,000 ticket price; the invite, courtesy of the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, features the names of a who's who of Clinton donors, including Myron and Patricia Cherry and Barack Obama backer Laura Ricketts.

Durbin's addition to the guest roster arrives less than two weeks after Emanuel announced his participation in the fundraiser, declaring: "Hillary is smart, she's determined, and most importantly, she is a champion for the American people. I'm proud to make my support for her official, and I'm even prouder to join more than two million Americans encouraging her to run."

It is perhaps not a coincidence that Emanuel chose to align himself with Clinton, who enjoys immense popularity here in Chicago, at a time when his approval ratings are in the tank.

Durbin appears to be following suit as he gears up for another election cycle. Though he elicits nowhere near the level of vitriol reserved for the Democratic mayor on the local stage, Durbin -- who would otherwise be a lock to hold onto his seat this fall -- is reported to be fearful of his chances to score another term in office. Even against Jim Oberweis. No one really took the Republican state senator and millionaire ice cream tycoon seriously -- that is, until conservative PACs started pouring tens of thousands into ads bashing Durbin.

According to the Sun-Times, Durbin worries about being out-spent by groups such as Americas PAC, largely financed by top Illinois GOP donor/Tea Party enthusiast Richard Uihlein, and the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. The former funneled nearly half a million dollars toward negative Durbin radio commercials while the latter contributed $56,000 in direct mail and telemarketing.

And so the Democrats are bringing out the big guns to help keep their man in office. President Obama lands in Chicago on Thursday to attend a pair of pro-Durbin fundraisers at the homes of Michael Polsky, CEO of the clean-energy company Invenergy, and super-donor Fred Eychaner, whose dinner invitation touts a covera charge of $35,000 per couple and $17,500 for (wealthy) singletons.

Meanwhile, Durbin is making headlines for his efforts to pass legislation that would provide undocumented immigrants a pathway toward becoming U.S. citizens. His bipartisan "gang of eight" immigration bill won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, giving the greenlight for a vote on the Senate floor.

Oberweis, for his part, declined to endorse the measure, arguing that undocumented adults should not be handed a "shortened path to citizenship" but supporting a speedier process for the immigrants' children.

The dairy magnate continues to publicly atone for what has been the biggest pratfall of his political career -- the tone-deaf campaign ad, circa 2004, wherein he flew via helicopter over Soldier Field, alleging there were enough job-stealing "illegal aliens" to "fill Soldier Field every week."

Earlier this year, he voiced regret over the "harsh tone of my rhetoric 10 years ago."

Someone please pass the Ben and Jerry's.

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