Is The White House Sweet On Senate Run For Lisa Madigan? : It's All Politics The White House may be pushing Illinois Attorney General to focus on a Senate race (for Roland Burris' seat) rather than challenge Pat Quinn for the governorship.
NPR logo Is The White House Sweet On Senate Run For Lisa Madigan?

Is The White House Sweet On Senate Run For Lisa Madigan?

In a Junkie post yesterday, we talked about how Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D), who has long coveted the governorship, is being urged by Democrats to instead run for the Senate.

The reasons are clear. With the corrupt Rod Blagojevich gone, replaced by the apparently clean Pat Quinn, the argument for her to challenge a fellow Democrat for the governorship would be harder to defend. Meanwhile, the presence of Roland Burris occupying Barack Obama's Senate seat remains galling to many Dems.

But there is one major obstacle to a Madigan Senate bid, and it's not Burris. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) has been organizing a Senate bid for months and shows no sign of backing off.

So where do things stand?

Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, who is probably more plugged in than anyone else on the subject, says that the Obama administration is "pushing" for Madigan to run for the Senate, and in fact the AG was at the WH last Friday meeting with Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. And Robyn Ziegler, Madigan's spokesperson, confirmed to Sweet that the discussion was about the Senate seat:

"She has not made a decision as to what she is going to do. As you know she is considering her options and meeting with the president is an important step in that decision making process," Ziegler said.

I have been hearing Madigan might be giving more weight to running for the Senate, rather than for governor. I still think she's more partial to governor—but the full court press from Team Obama will be hard to ignore.

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.

Thre are two schools of thought on this. One, Madigan is really not interested in the Senate but wants to keep her name out there. Or two, she may think she can get what she wants.

Regarding the condition of jumping in the Senate contest, where she would like the Democratic primary field cleared beforehand: Madigan does not want to get in the Senate Democratic primary and then have it emptied because it would look like she had people muscle rivals out of the race.

If Madigan runs for governor, she will not get a primary pass; she would face Gov. Quinn. Quinn is a longtime friend of David Axelrod, Obama's senior advisor. Moving Madigan over to the Senate would have the extra advantage of clearing the field for Axelrod's friend, Quinn.

From the state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias camp, the word I get is that he's not getting out of the Senate race he's been in for months. Merchandise Mart mogul Chris Kennedy, of the Kennedy clan has been organizing a senate campaign but has not announced yet.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), I hear, wants Madigan to make a Senate bid.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), under an ethics cloud, has no political organization, backing or money. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the political arm of the Senate Democrats, has been trying to lure Madigan in the race on the grounds that she is strongest contender. Even though Illinois is heavily Democratic and Democrats control all state offices—and is the state that spawned Obama—the Blagojevich scandal and related Burris mess may threaten the Democratic hold on the seat once held by Obama.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), I hear, is waiting to see what Madigan does before deciding to run for the Senate, governor or stay put. If Madigan runs for Senate, Kirk, if he seeks higher office, would consider governor. If Madigan goes for governor, the Senate race would look better.

At a commencement speech in Chicago Sunday, Sun-Times Political Reporter Abdon M. Pallasch asked Obama Axelrod Sunday about spin put out by some Giannoulias critics that the White House wanted Madigan as the nominee because if Obama's friend Giannoulias was the nominee, Obama's and Giannoulias' old friend, convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, would become a campaign issue that caused spillover bad P.R. for Obama.

"The president has a lot of respect and affection for Alexi, for Lisa, but ultimately the party and voters here are going to have to decide who will be the strongest possible candidate right now," Axelrod said. "Our interest is in making sure the seat remains in Democratic hands. It's not up to the president to decide who the candidate should be, But that's the standard everyone should apply: Who would be the strongest candidate?"