Obama senior advisor David Axelrod met with Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias today, and observers say the meeting likely concerned keeping the seat out of Republican hands.
Giannoulias is one of three Democrats running for the seat that will be vacated by Sen. Roland Burris at the end of this term. So far, he's running against Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.
Giannoulias said he did not expect the White House to endorse in his race, the Huffington Post reported, but he did note that he was in a strong position to win the nomination, having raised $1.1 million in less than one month. The first-term treasurer currently has the endorsement of the SEIU, Illinois' largest union, and his $2.4 million in campaign cash includes none of his own personal wealth.
Whoever makes it out of the primary will likely see a formidable opponent in Rep. Mark Kirk, the leading Republican, who has strong name identification throughout the state and who said earlier this month that he's raised $1.6 million over the past three months.
The arrest and impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the ethicsquestions that surround Burris will make the democratic candidate's race all the more difficult.
According to automated polling conducted for Kirk's campaign, Kirk holds a seven-point lead over Giannoulias and a wide lead over his GOP opponents.