The Obama Effect: Candidates Seek Endorsement From Former President Ahead of Election Day

He’s not on the ballot, and he hasn’t lived in Chicago since he landed in the Oval Office in 2008. But former President Barack Obama’s popularity can still be felt up and around Cook County, making his endorsement an object to be desired by many candidates on the eve of Election Day for the Illinois primary.

On March 17, Obama endorsed long-time friend and embattled Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has found herself facing a surprisingly tough reelection bid against former Ald. Bob Fioretti after the meteoric failure of the county soda-tax last year.

But Preckwinkle isn’t the only candidate running trying to make the most out of a wink from the 44th President of the United States. In the race for Illinois Attorney General, Pat Quinn’s campaign is running a radio ad touting an Obama endorsement as well — the catch being that former president endorsed Quinn in a different election for a different seat, during his failed gubernatorial re-election bid in 2014.

“You know, I’ve been attacked a lot this week by attack ads,” Pat Quinn told NBC 5. “President Obama stood up for me in 2014; he said I was a consumer advocate, a champion of working people.”

Quinn’s main primary rival, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, dismissed Quinn’s slight lead in the latest polls for the crowded, eight candidate-strong Democratic attorney general race. “When you serve in all these offices — when you run for office for every cycle from almost 30 years, you’re going to have some name recognition.”

“Quinn’s bringing this out, I’m sure, to increase and maximize his support with the African American community,” said Professor Wayne Steger, a political science professor at DePaul University. “If he can do that, and other candidates split the vote, as the candidate with name recognition, he should be able to win.”

Fioretti, who spent time on the campaign trail with Rev. Jesse Jackson Monday, spoke to NBC 5 during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities Saturday.

“The people want change here in Cook County,” Fioretti said. “They want new leadership.”

In the meantime, while the Obamas have lived on the East Coast full-time since 2008, Michelle and Barack are still registered to vote in Cook County. According to Chicago election officials, they applied to vote by mail ahead of the March 20 primary elections this year.

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