Did you hear the one about the mob banker and the serial embellisher?
No, that's not the setup to a joke; it's a description of the Illinois senate race. Of the 37 senate contests taking place across America this year, the race between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk and might be the nastiest, most unappealing race of all. But it might also be the most consequential.
All of this is an unexpected bitter pill for Democrats. Two years ago, when Illinois' newest favourite son carried the state by 25 points to win the presidency, and Illinois Democrats swept demoralised Republicans from every statewide office, it was inconceivable the party would have trouble filling Barack Obama's open seat just two short years later.