President Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod sat down on Thursday for a strategy session with one of the four Democrats running for the president's former U.S. Senate seat, the second such meeting this month.
Axelrod met with former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman at the White House to discuss ways of keeping a Democrat in the seat that much-beleaguered appointee Roland Burris has said he will vacate at term's end.
National Republicans have targeted the Illinois seat as one they think they can win in 2010, and the White House has been skittish about the race ever since they failed to woo their preferred candidate, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to run.
"It's no secret that the White House tried to find other candidates to get in the race," Hoffman campaign manager Michael Powell told the Huffington Post. "But David Axelrod was very gracious with his time and was very interested to hear David Hoffman's view of the race."
Two weeks ago Axelrod had a similar meeting with one of Hoffman's rivals, Illinois state Treasurer and Obama basketball pal Alexi Giannoulias. After the Hoffman campaign let the White House know their man was coming to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Axelrod invited the former federal prosecutor and Supreme Court clerk to the White House.
Axelrod and Hoffman talked for about 15 minutes while the candidate laid out why he was the strongest candidate to face likely Republican nominee, Congressman Mark Kirk.
In a race against Kirk, "David Hoffman takes corruption off the table," Powell said. "Kirk wants to run against corruption. On the issues he can't win."
Powell said Giannoulias, the current Democratic frontrunner, never came up during the discussion.
"Alexi would like everyone to believe that he has this race locked up, but any objective observer would tell you that's not true," Powell said. "The race is not settled, not yet formed."
The Obama Administration has said it will not be making an endorsement in the primary, and Hoffman didn't ask for one. Although his campaign hired Axelrod's former Chicago political consulting firm, Hoffman had never met Axelrod in person.
Hoffman entered the race nearly two months ago and currently trails Giannoulias in fundraising and name recognition.
But Powell said Hoffman has been on a fundraising tear, and has commitments totaling nearly $1 million since the new reporting period began. Hoffman, who loaned his own campaign $500,000, has set a fundraising goal of $2 million this quarter.
The meeting at the White House could help Hoffman's efforts to close the gap with Giannoulias and create some distance from the two other Democrats. Former Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Robinson Jackson and Chicago attorney Jacob Meister are also seeking the nomination.
"Ultimately these races are about whether the candidate can put it together and win these races," Powell said. "David started this campaign with enormous credibility. Now it's all about proving his viability."