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Why Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Mulling a Mark Kirk Endorsement

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Why Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Mulling a Mark Kirk Endorsement
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Jesse Jackson Jr. wanted Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. He's not going to get it. But he is toying with the idea of supporting Mark Kirk. Why?

Jackson, you’ll remember, was “Senate Candidate 5,” who allegedly offered to raise a million dollars for Rod Blagojevich if the governor would appoint him to the Senate. Jackson denies that, and will have a chance to explain, now that he’s been subpoenaed to testify in Blagojevich’s upcoming trial.

Jackson is never going to be a U.S. Senator from Illinois -- and not because of his relationship with Blagojevich. The Jackson family name appeals to Chicago’s black community, but is a handicap in the rest of the state. Junior, who has built his own little machine on the South Side, wants a say in who will be senator, though. In 2004, when Obama was running for the Senate, Jackson posed with him on billboards. Obama still needed his hood pass back then, so Jackson’s endorsement told skeptical black voters, “This guy is one of us.”

During the Democratic primary, Junior didn’t make an endorsement. His fellow black congressmen, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, backed Cheryle Robinson Jackson. Now, Junior is showing love to Mark Kirk.

“I like Alexi Giannoulias, but I have great respect for Mark Kirk and his service to the people of Illinois,” Jackson told POLITICO.

In order to understand why Jesse Jackson Jr. would endorse a Republican, you've got to look back. Before Illinois’ junior Senate seat belonged to Roland Burris and Barack Obama, it was held for six years by Carol Moseley Braun. Chicago’s black community regards it as their seat -- as all of black America’s, in fact, since Illinois is the only state that’s willing to elect a black senator.

Since Illinois won’t be electing a black senator this year, Jackson may be figuring that one white guy is as good as another. A Republican may be actually be better -- the black community can raise up another candidate to knock him off in six years. Peter Fitzgerald, Obama’s predecessor, was a one-termer. Maybe Kirk will be, too.

The next Great Black Hope is probably serving in obscurity on the Chicago City Council or in the state legislature. It won’t be Jesse Jackson Jr. But you can bet that Junior is grooming him. Or her.

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