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Sure, it’s Illinois politics, but when voters go to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots in a series of primaries, they’ll be thinking about the national implications of these races.
It’s partially by design.
Senate Candidate David Hoffman over the weekend told voters that nominating primary front-runner Alexi Giannoulias would lead to a Scott Brown-like victory for the GOP come November.
“This is going to be a difficult year for Democrats and … this is our president’s Senate seat,” Hoffman said. “And we know the Republicans are going to throw everything they can into this general election. And so it is of critical importance that we have the strongest possible nominee.”
Meanwhile, at an Alexi Giannoulias rally, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Ill.), attacked the rumors head on.
“Illinois is not Massachusetts, right?” Schakowsky told Alexi supporters at a union hall in Chicago. “Here in the heartland … working families understand the difference between people and administrations and elected officials who want to create jobs and those who don’t.”
But strategists say, not so fast.
“Democrats are starting to realize that every single Democrat in the country is vulnerable now. It’s a very angry electorate, a very volatile electorate,” Jerry Morrison, political director of the state Service Employees International Union, which has endorsed Pat Quinn and Alexi Giannoulias told Policito.
Members of the Illinois GOP sense weakness heading into to the general election.
“It’s been brewing for some time,” said Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross. “I think it’s as intense here as it’s been [in Massachusetts].”
While much of the speculation has centered on President Obama’s former senate seat, with Democrats worried that a weak candidate won’t be able to take on likely GOP candidate Mark Kirk, some of the attacks between GOP rivals focus on even being associated with a Democrat.
Andy McKenna, the front-runner in the Republican governor race by a slim margin, has been running ads in recent days attempting to tie one of his primary rivals, Kirk Dillard, to Barack Obama.
Dillard famously ran campaign ads touting the fact that he and Obama had worked together in the State Senate and now McKenna has turned the tables and uses them for an attack.
It’s unclear if that strategy will be effective after Obama addressed it head-on in an address to the Republicans at a retreat in Maryland.
“… One of our former colleagues is right now running for governor on the Republican side in Illinois,” Obama said in a reference to state senator Dillard.
“In the Republican primary, of course, they’re running ads of him saying nice things about me. … Poor guy.”
The ads represent a palpable departure for McKenna who began the primary season running ads that lampooned Governor Rod Blagojevich’s time in office.
His aides contend that it’s a smart strategy.
“In a Republican primary, if you’re in an ad supporting Barack Obama for president, that’s something that’s very, very unpopular with the base. Even if you’re in Illinois, that’s very unpopular,” Brian Nick, a GOP adman working for McKenna told Politico. “To be able to show that one of the front-runners endorsed Obama for president is a strong message to get out.”
But some say Illinois voters aren’t that gullible.
Steve Brown, a senior aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan told Politico that the president, the party and Massachusetts won’t come in to play here in Illinois.
“It’s a different situation than you have in other states,” said Brown. “I think [voters] are more focused on the performance of individual legislators.”