The battle over President Obama’s old senate seat in Illinois is excruciatingly close. Republican Mark Kirk leads Democrat Alexi Giannoulias by a very small margin in most polls and is narrowly favored to win. But a number of Illinois GOP operatives I spoke with today expressed concerns about an eleventh-hour development in the race: A $1 million cash infusion from the DNC into the state late on Saturday, coinciding with the President’s Hyde Park Rally. Politico’s Ben Smith reports:
With Illinois shaping up as perhaps the tightest Senate race in the country — and one where the Democratic candidate and his advisers have friends in the White House — the DNC just sent nearly $1 million to the state, topping a list of cash transfers totaling more than 2.6 million.
“Your readers need to understand that this amounts to $1 million of walking around money for Alexi Giannoulias,” one insider warned. “This is money that very well could be used to literally buy the election at the street level.” My source said he’s been reliably informed by his Democratic counterparts that the White House weeks ago decreed that holding the Illinois Senate seat was a top priority, approving a no-holds-barred approach to boosting Giannoulias. “They essentially said, ‘do whatever it takes,’ and Illinois Democrats know what that means,” he explained. “They are prepared to steal this election, which should come as no surprise. Just ask Norm Coleman.”
A second GOP operative echoed these concerns, pointing out that it’s too late in the game to spend seven figures on advertising. “First of all, at this stage, there is nowhere near $1 million-worth of available advertising inventory to buy,” he said. “Secondly, even if there were, they couldn’t possibly turn TV, radio, or mailers around in time. It’s too late.” This Republican source said state Democratic Chairman and Illinois Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan, is “identifying key districts and precincts, and sending cash. It won’t just be [Giannoulias] who will benefit from this slush fund -- although that’s definitely the race that the White House is most personally invested in,” he said.
Republicans, meanwhile, are redoubling their efforts to put some daylight between themselves and their Democratic opponents. “The Kirk campaign has all cylinders firing. They are minding every single detail, and taking nothing for granted,” the first source said. “All of our Illinois campaigns are working very hard.” Both sources agreed that despite potential electoral shenanigans, Republicans will prevail in the Prairie State on Tuesday. “Mark [Kirk] is going to squeeze it out, and [Bill] Brady will beat Pat Quinn,” one said.
In furtherance of Republicans’ effort to leave no stone unturned, Kirk’s conservative primary foe, Patrick Hughes, issued a statement to his former supporters, reiterating his support for Kirk and urging them to back the Republican ticket:
As you know, I challenged Congressman Kirk for the nomination in the February primary. Although the Congressman and I disagree on some important issues, on those most critical to our nation right now – the size and scope of government, the faltering economy, and national security – we agree. The Congressman is facing President Obama acolyte Alexi Giannoulias for the Senate seat that the president, who once held the seat, is desperate to keep in the hands of a Democrat who will endorse his failed policies…
I appreciate all of the tireless support that so many have given. I am now asking you to help me one more time. Vote, as I have, for Congressman Kirk.
Republicans aren’t the only ones preaching party unity. Democrats are hoping that recent campaign visits from the president, vice president, first lady, and former President Clinton will buoy turnout and solidify Democratic support heading into Election Day.