IL Treas. Alexi Giannoulias (D) was in DC for “meetings” 10/14. Turns out, He was at the WH for a visit with Obama adviser David Axelrod (Stein, “Huffington Post,” 10/14).
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Giannoulias stopped by the Watergate to meet with The Hotline and he left the impression he’s already looking past the three-way SEN primary he faces in Feb. ‘10 and toward a likely match-up against Rep. Mark Kirk (R-10).
Giannoulias: “To have all the institutional support, to have better poll numbers, better name recognition and a significant money advantage in a primary that’s right around the corner, we are just in a great, great place.”
Giannoulias’ main rivals for the Dem nod, ex-Chicago IG David Hoffman and ex-Chicago Urban League pres. Cheryle Robinson Jackson, have only recently entered the race and they’re behind in terms of building their organizations and attracting money. Giannoulias “said they’re too far behind to catch him.”
He added: “If you take away the holidays, when are you going to raise money? We’ve been doing this since March and we’ve raised $3 million and it has not been easy. Two months to try to raise money when no one knows who you are, no polling to show them, I just think it’s challenging.”
While Jackson has the demographic distinction being the only woman and only African-American in the race, Giannoulias said “she has to prove that she’s viable” in order to capitalize. While Jackson has raised $354K in the last month, and received the backing of EMILY’s List, proving she’s a viable candidate will be difficult. Moreover, she hasn’t been tested in electoral politics, and neither has Hoffman, Giannoulias said. “Not only have they not run for statewide office before, but they haven’t run for office in their lives.”
Looking ahead to the general, Giannoulias made it clear he wants to paint Kirk as “too extreme” for IL. The Dem said: “He’s not moderate. What we need to do is let people in Illinois know how he’s voted.” Asked if tying Kirk to George W. Bush will still be a workable strategy next year, Giannoulias said: “yes.”
Giannoulias: “If he talks about debt being too much, well, he voted for all of George Bush’s budgets where the debt doubled. He’s got a lot of explaining to do.”
Giannoulias cited Kirk’s House vote on cap-and-trade legislation and back-and-forth about entering the race as signs of weakness. Giannoulias: “Already in a few months, I’ve seen some huge mistakes. We’re going to highlight that. We’re going to highlight the fact that he’s trying to go to the right and figure out what his base is. He’s dealing with inconsistencies.”
But it’s early days yet to be building “contrasts.”
Giannoulias said of Kirk, “To be honest with you, most folks don’t even know who he is downstate, so tying him to Bush hasn’t even come up yet.”
Targeting one of the Dem’s perceived vulnerabilities, Kirk said earlier this week that the state’s Bright Start 529 college savings program was “failing miserably” because the program’s manager, Oppenheimer Funds, lost $85M investing in mortgage-backed securities. Kirk also contended Bright Start is understating its true losses, but he avoided saying Giannoulias was directly responsible.
Giannoulias agreed that one of the program’s funds suffered “excessive losses,” but he said his dept. is pursuing legal action against Oppenheimer. Giannoulias: “We went after them, and we’re really close to getting a really good settlement. Yeah, I think people will try and make it an issue, but look, if you look at what the marketplace has done within the last year, people have taken enormous, enormous losses. It’s still one of the best programs in the country and I’m extremely proud of it.”
Still, Giannoulias “acknowledged” that Dems in IL will face a difficult environment in ‘10. Giannoulias: “For a very blue state, for what should be an easy statewide race, it’s going to be very tight. Do I think I’m going to win? Yes” (Hotline reporting, 10/14).
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