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Why Giannoulias Needs to Play Checkers

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Why Giannoulias Needs to Play Checkers

Alexi Giannoulias has been getting pretty good media coverage, says Alexi’s new campaign manager, Mike Rendina -- if you set aside Broadway Bank.

Right. Rendina’s next job should be as a docent at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, where he can tell visitors “Nixon had a pretty successful presidency -- if you take away Watergate.”

That's slightly hyperbolic, but it's true that Giannoulias’s media team has been desperately trying to change the subject from the travails of his family’s failing bank, which will be liquidated by federal officials if it can’t come up with $85 million by April 24.

Mainly, they’ve been attacking Mark Kirk on his vote against health care reform.

But that’s already becoming old news, so Giannoulias is considering another Nixonian tactic: giving a Checkers speech.

In 1952, when Nixon was a candidate for vice president, the press discovered that he was receiving money from a slush fund provided by his political allies. Nixon admitted receiving financial help, but said there was one gift he would never return: a little dog named Checkers.

“The kids, like all kids, love the dog,” Nixon said.

In one moment, Nixon turned a financial scandal into a story about puppies and children.

According to The New York Times, the Giannoulias campaign has been asking focus groups around the state whether Broadway Bank’s troubles make them think less of Alexi. (Of course not, according to the Giannoulias campaign.) And Alexi has already cut an ad in which he “stares into the camera lens and tries to relate the plight of his family’s bank to the larger context of the country’s economic struggles.”

So if you’ve lost your house to foreclosure, or can’t afford your prescription drugs, well, you’re not the only who’s suffering. Alexi may be a millionaire with a hot girlfriend, but he’s suffering, too.

Especially after his attempt today, apparently failed, to "elevate" the conversation beyond Broadway Bank.

Giannoulias wants to lay the issue to rest before the Blagojevich trial begins, out of fear that Republicans will try to connect Blago and G as a pair of well-coiffed, expensively-suited Democrats who exemplify their party’s tradition of political corruption.

Since Giannoulias’s fate is so closely linked to Blagojevich, maybe both men should get together to revise another Nixon catch-phrase.

They could cut a joint ad, in which they both declare, “I am not a crook.”

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