Obama to Help Giannoulias: White House - NBC Chicago

Obama to Help Giannoulias: White House



    Obama to Help Giannoulias: White House
    Alexi Giannoulias

    U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Friday he still thinks Democrat Alexi Giannoulias can win President Barack Obama's old Senate seat despite the troubles at his family's bank -- and it looks like he could get a boost from the White House.

    "The president intends to help Democratic candidates in Illinois up and down the ballot," Obama's deputy press secretary Bill Burton said in a statement.

    That would be good news for Giannoulias who is running in a tight race against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk and whose campaign has been marred by financial struggles at his family's bank.

    Banking regulators entered the Chicago headquarters of Broadway Bank Friday afternoon after the Chicago-based lender failed to raise the $85 million needed to keep it open.  The bank was heavy into real estate and lost $75 million last year.

    Giannoulias has tried to soften the political blow of a potential collapse by saying weeks ago that the bank was likely to fail. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. typically announces which bank it's closing at the end of the business day on Fridays.

    But not even Obama's help was enough to help Democrats hold on to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, which Republican Scott Brown won in a special election in January.

    Durbin, who had lunch with Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel last week, said the White House inquired about the state of Giannoulias' campaign, asking about organization and fundraising.

    Giannoulias had his best fundraising quarter when he raised $1.2 million in the first three months of this year, but that was dwarfed by Kirk's $2.2 million.

    Durbin, Giannoulias' campaign chairman, said he would like the White House's help to hold on to the Democratic seat now held by Sen. Roland Burris. Burris, who was appointed by disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, did not seek a full term.

    "At this point it's way too early for these commitments to be made and the honest answer is we have races all across the country, House and Senate races, and I'm sure the president is looking to those that he can make a difference in," Durbin said.

    Obama will be back in Illinois next week and make a stop in Quincy, near the Illinois-Iowa border, as part of his Main Street tour. Giannoulias' campaign said they didn't know yet if he would be there with the president.

    Durbin again defended Giannoulias, who was a loan officer at his family's bank before being elected in 2006 as Illinois treasurer.

    "He has had nothing to do with this bank for four straight years," Durbin said.

    Still, the political liability of the bank has not diminished Durbin's belief that Giannoulias can be elected in November.

    "I really do believe he can," Durbin said.