Barack Obama was in Chicago over the weekend, helping to rally support for Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who is vying for the president's former seat.
It's not the first time Obama has turned his attention to hometown politics. He's made two other campaign appearances for the Democrat -- Vice President Joe Biden has been there as well. Earlier in the week, Giannoulias also got a high-profile visit from the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton. It's all part of what is becoming a down-to-the-wire effort by Democrats trying to close the tightest gaps in key Senate races around the nation -- and prevent Republicans from hoisting the emblematic token of the president's former seat.
The race for Illinois Senator, a position being vacated by Roland Burris -- who was appointed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich after Obama's election -- is looking ready to be a cliffhanger on Tuesday, and its possession by either side of the aisle is sure to affect party equations for overall control of the Senate.
Giannoulias's numbers have consistently struggled from Democratic defectors in the blue state turning to Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones in the current anti-incumbent, anti-establishment climate, a trend that Kirk is trying to utilize in his last-minute public campaign efforts by turning down the partisan rhetoric in a plea for undecided and independent votes.
Democrats, on the other hand, seem to have given up on extracting Republican and independent ballots, instead turning to a "get out the vote" strategy that they hope will invigorate their base.
The Chicago Sun-Tribune's Lynn Sweet reported over the weekend from the Obama rally:
"There is no more persuading Republicans or independents to vote Democratic," state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told me at the rally. It's about getting out the base vote.
Such news, however, comes only days after powerful advocacy groups who had supported Kirk in his prior elections decided to renounce the Republican in favor of Giannoulias.
The home stretch in Illinois has become defined by its negative slant, accelerated in part by massive outpourings of cash by third-party groups. $45 million has been spent on political ads since September in the Chicago TV market alone, with negative commercials focusing on things such as Mark Kirk's embellished military record
and Alexi Giannoulias's ties to his family bank's questionable history.