Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Is It Time for Democrats to Shove Giannoulias Out?

Political observers note that the White House didn’t get heavily involved in the primary even though Giannoulias was known to be burdened with plenty of political baggage, so there certainly is some reason to wonder whether the Illinois-heavy White House will continue to keep its distance from the general election, even if Giannoulias’ defeat starts to look inevitable.

Still, with the White House crawling with Illinois political folks, it’s hard to believe that party leaders and strategists at the highest level are going to sit back quietly and allow the president’s former Senate seat to fall in Kirk’s lap.

For years, political operatives at the National Republican Congressional Committee used to say that then-Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) “handled” all New York races, just as folks at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last cycle joked that Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were in charge of Maryland races.

By that logic, Illinois is very much in the White House’s lap, though Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also has some responsibility.

Unlike some states, the Democratic bench in Illinois is so deep that it shouldn’t be hard to find a more formidable replacement for Giannoulias. Senate primary runner-up David Hoffman, a former prosecutor and Chicago inspector general, would be an obvious choice, but other Illinois famous names come to mind as well.

Politically astute Democrats now think that the chances that Giannoulias will “step aside” have increased with the federal takeover of Broadway Bank. And if Democratic control of the Senate starts to look at all at risk, behind-the-scenes efforts to come up with a stronger Senate nominee in Illinois might increase.

Even in a bad year for Democrats nationally, it seems odd that Republican prospects in the Illinois Senate race look so good.

Yes, the GOP got the candidate it wanted in Kirk, and the president’s numbers in the state have slipped from where they were. But Democrats would be in better shape if they didn’t have a nominee who was such damaged goods.

Illinois folks in and around the White House surely know that, and that’s why pressure is building for them to do something soon. If they don’t and Democrats lose the seat, it will be hard not to place a chunk of the blame at the front door of the White House.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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