Sen. Dick Durbin may be the most respected politician in Illinois.
In a state full of prima donnas, crooks and double-dippers, Durbin is colorless, honest and hard-working. As Majority Whip, he’s the number two man in the Senate. And he has no ambitions beyond the Senate. Durbin has wanted to be a senator ever since he was a Georgetown University intern holding papers for Paul Douglas to sign. Durbin named his son Paul Douglas Durbin, and 30 years after his mentor’s defeat, he finally got to call himself “senator.” Which he continues to do at every opportunity.
I once saw him tell a group of high school students in Little Village, “My mother was an immigrant from Lithuania, and today, I stand before you a United States senator.” In the four years Barack Obama spent in the Senate, Durbin deprecatingly described himself as “the other senator from Illinois.”
Durbin loves being a senator, and Illinois loves having him in the Senate. A new survey from Public Policy Polling shows him with a 51 percent approval rate, against 34 percent who disapprove and predicts Durbin will trounce any likely Republican opponent in 2014. Durbin beats Rep. Bob Dold 54-33, Rep. Joe Walsh 54-29 and Patrick Hughes 53-31. That’s the second string of Illinois’ second-string party, but no Republican with anything to lose would take on Durbin. In his last election, Durbin defeated Steve Sauerberg, a suburban physician who had never held office before. Sauerberg got 28 percent of the vote, and won four counties. Durbin ran six points ahead of Obama. As PPP notes:
Durbin is in such good shape because 20% of Republicans support his work in the Senate, and 13% of them say they will probably vote for him in two years. Independents are split right down the middle on both fronts, including 42-42 on the re-elect.
If Durbin wins, he will surpass Douglas to become the longest-serving Democratic senator in Illinois history and will be only the second Illinois senator elected four times, following Shelby Moore Cullom, a Republican who served from 1883 to 1913. That would be a historic Senate career, for a Senate lifer.