CHICAGO
07/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

White House: 'The President Is Not Going To Pick A Candidate In The Illinois Senate Race'

News of a White House meeting between Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and President Obama fueled speculation that the administration is trying to persuade Madigan to run for Obama's old Senate seat 2010. On Thursday White House press secretary did his best to insist that looks can be deceiving.

"The president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at Thursday's White House briefing, according to the Tribune:

"The president has a very long relationship with the attorney general, dating back to their time in the state Senate," he said. "She'd be a terrific candidate, but we are not going to get involved in picking a candidate in Illinois."

Madigan met with Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod late last week at the White House. Her spokeswoman insisted that Madigan has yet to decide and "talking to the president is an important part" of making up her mind.

Madigan has long been interested in running for governor, not the Senate, but as the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet writes, "the full court press from Team Obama will be hard to ignore." Should she run, Madigan has two big demands, Sweet reports:

Here's the gist put out by a Madigan camper. Madigan is getting more serious but has a few conditions. If Madigan is to get in the Senate race, she wants an endorsement from Obama when she announces and she wants the Democratic primary field to be cleared of rivals.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has already raised substantial money towards a run, pushed back against that idea in a statement issued Thursday:

Voters in Illinois are facing the most troubling economic times in decades and they want
leaders who will solve problems and fight hard every day against the political insiders who have
failed us. When Barack Obama ran for this seat in 2004, he was not the choice of the insiders.
He became the choice of the people because of the strength of his ideas and his ideals.

"Illinois has been ill-served by state party leaders who think they know better than voters. Now
more than ever, anyone who seeks this seat must convince voters they have the ideas that will
get our economy on its feet and put our people back to work, not just prove that they have the
political clout to demand a clear field and win appointment.

Madigan's political director said this week that the AG will decide "within four to six weeks" whether to run for the Senate, governor or another term as the state's chief legal officer. Chris Kennedy, the president of a Chicago-based commercial real estate firm and son of Robert F. Kennedy, has been planning a run but not yet announced, nor has embattled incumbent Sen. Roland Burris.