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Obama Heads Home To Purple-ish Illinois

Updated at 9:31 a.m.

When President Obama heads back to Chicago for a fundraiser today, he'll find that his once solidly blue backyard is in danger of turning purple.


The Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, is in a tight race. Four congressional Democratic incumbents -- all from urban districts -- are facing tough fights to keep their seats. And the president himself is heading back to Chicago to help raise cash for Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who is in a tough battle to hang on to Obama's old Senate seat.

"It shows you how much trouble the president and the Democrats in general are in that Obama is back here raising money for Democrats," said Kent Redfield, a political scientist at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

By many measures, Illinois should continue to lean Democratic. The Hispanic population has nearly doubled over the last two decades. The African-American population remains significant, labor groups remain robust, and Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state's Republican-leaning rural vote since President Clinton.


But the polls show that Democratic candidates in Illinois are similarly suffering from the same sort of voter discontent that the president's party is facing throughout the country.

Obama still remains popular in his home state, with 52 percent of likely voters in Illinois saying they have a favorable view of him, according to a poll released this week by Suffolk University. His home state is one of few states where polls say he can be an asset for Democrats, and Obama hopes to reignite some excitement into the party's faithful by stumping for Giannoulias. (Michelle Obama is also scheduled to travel to Illinois later this month to campaign for Giannoulias, an old pal of the Obamas.)

But if Republicans make significant gains in Illinois, GOP leaders will certainly use it as ammunition to make their case that Obama is out of touch with a wide swath of Americans, said Brian Gaines, a political scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

"It's a little embarrassing," Gaines said about the prospect of Democratic losses in Illinois. "If on November 3, Illinois looks more like a purple state than a blue state, it's going to be like Chicago losing the Olympics. The president is going to have to answer: 'Where's his clout? Where's his ability to deliver?'"

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