Sen. Barack Obama's biggest cheerleader, Sen. Dick Durbin, launched an online petition drive on Monday to persuade his fellow Illinois Democrat to run for president.
Several people tell me that Obama, who is seriously considering a bid, is phoning people he knows to get input -- and cold-calling key figures in Iowa and New Hampshire.
He's not asking people in those two important early primary states for support, since he's not in the race. Rather, he's asking them to stay neutral until he decides.
Durbin's petition drive is a free-lance effort. He sent the e-mails to his list of donors and supporters without an explicit request of, or permission from, Obama & Co., the freshman senator's small circle of advisers.
Pair feed off each other
"In all my years in politics, I have only met one other person who connects with people as well as Barack does: former President Bill Clinton," Durbin wrote in his letter, which links to his campaign Web site.
• • With attention focusing now on the 2008 contests, note that Durbin is now in cycle. He has not officially announced he is running for a third term, but there is no reason to think he is not going to seek re-election in 2008.
Obama leading the 2008 national ticket helps Durbin in Illinois. Even if he does not jump in the 2008 Democratic primary, Obama is one of the nation's top fund-raisers and would stand ready to assist Durbin, if needed.
Any Republican pondering a Durbin challenge in the 2008 Senate race must also recognize that he or she will in effect be running against Durbin and Obama, one of this nation's most popular political figures.
• • A new Quinnipiac University poll, taken Nov. 13-19, put Obama in the top three of politicians voters feel good about. The upstate New York school pegged former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani first, followed by Obama and Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who just formed a 2008 presidential exploratory committee.
• • Durbin, by the way, has repaired ancient rifts with some longtime Illinois antagonists within the Democratic family. It's a surprise byproduct of Durbin discovering and going all out for defeated House Dem candidate Tammy Duckworth and being an Obama stalwart.
That will only make Durbin more formidable as Illinois Republicans, wounded from being wiped out in the Nov. 7 balloting, now search within their bench for someone to run against Durbin.
Two Republicans who may be contemplating a Senate run each have some new issues to deal with: Rep. Mark Kirk got a stronger-than-expected challenge from Democrat Dan Seals. Rep. John Shimkus, chief of the House page board, is damaged because of the Foley page scandal.