WASHINGTON--Though the White House seems to have been on a recruiting mission to get Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to run for the Senate, asked what President Obama, White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett were up to when they met with her Friday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama was not going to endorse anyone.
But then again Gibbs also said, "the president's not going to get involved in this race," when it seems he has already, by virtue of the meeting.
A Madigan spokesman told me on Wednesday Madigan flew to Washington alone on a commercial jet Friday to discuss a Senate bid. Madigan and Obama were seatmates when they served together Illinois state senate.
When I asked Gibbs about Madigan's Friday visit to the White House during the briefing, (at 28:33, courtesy of C-SPAN) he sidestepped a direct answer to my question, "Why do they want her to run for Senate?"
"Well, let me just -- let me be explicit," Gibbs said. "The president has -- the president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race. The president has a very long relationship with the attorney general, dating back to their time in the state senate, and has enormous respect for what she accomplished there and has as attorney general.
"I think she'd be a terrific candidate. But we're
not going to get involved in picking that candidate in Illinois," Gibbs said.
Madigan, who initially was preparing a run for governor--challenging Gov. Quinn, a friend of White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod--has been recruited to run for the Senate by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
I reported on Wednesday that Madigan had two conditions she wanted if she ran for the Senate: an immediate Obama endorsement and for the Democratic primary field to be cleared.
Gibbs said Obama would not be making an endorsement.
"We're not going to endorse in this race. Does the president have enormous respect for the attorney general? Absolutely."
Though an Obama protégé, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has been in the contest for months, the thought in the Obama/Durbin et al camp that Giannoulias is very promising but this is not his time.
Merchandise Mart mogul Chris Kennedy of the Kennedy clan has also been organizing a campaign, hiring Axelrod's former political firm as his consultants. Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has not said if he will run for the seat he was appointed to by the tainted Gov. Blagojevich. But no one seems to care about Burris since he has no money, no organization, no legislative track record and two ethics probes hanging over his head.
Another reporter tried it this way with Gibbs: "How does this meeting fit within what you just said, that the White House is not going to get involved in this race?"
Gibbs said, "The president enjoyed meeting with the attorney general."
"Will he meet with everyone else?"
Replied Gibbs, "I don't know if they've asked."
Maybe now they will.