By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter
CHICAGO--President Obama sought to remove all doubt Thursday that the White House is 100 percent behind his old friend, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, to take Obama's old Senate seat.
"Alexi is my friend. I know his character. I know how much he loves this country," Obama told 400 supporters who paid $1,000 to $2,400 at the Palmer House Hilton. "I know how committed he is to public service for all the right reasons. I appreciate his strong sense of advocacy for ordinary Americans."
Without mentioning Giannoulias' Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, by name, Obama appeared to slam him, saying "Alexi is not one of these politicians who puts his fingers to the wind and changes who he is or where he stands to suit the political moment. You can trust him. You can count on him."
Kirk has been criticized for voting as a moderate on some issued for 10 years in Congress, then switching his stands on some issues, such as "Cap and Trade" penalties for companies that pollute, when he got into the race for senate.
Obama and Giannoulias have been friends for many years, since they met playing basketball on the University of Chicago campus. But that did not stop some in the White House from trying to recruit less controversial candidates such as Attorney General Lisa Madigan into the senate race.
All that appeared to be ancient history Thursday as first Mayor Daley and then Obama, gave strong endorsements for Giannoulias at the event they were hoping would raise about $1 million for his campaign.
Of course, as he has before, Mayor Daley flubbed Giannoulias' first name, calling him "Alex."
Obama praised Giannoulias for holding Wells Fargo's feet to the fire when the bank threatened the account of financially struggling Des Plaines suitmaker Hartmarx - a brand the president favors.
"I'm sure a lot of you have heard what he did for Hartmarx," Obama said. "This is a clothing company that has employed people in this state for more than a century. By the way, I'm a customer," the president said, to laughter and applause.
"When they fell on hard times, the big bank tried to pull their credit and destroy 600 jobs. Alexi stepped in, " Obama said. "He told the bank that if they did that, they would no longer be managing the money of Illinois taxpayers. Because of what he did, Alexi helped save that company and save those jobs. That's the kind of person you want in the United States Senate."
Giannoulias called Mayor Daley, "The finest mayor in the United States of America someone who loves this city, someone who I am very proud to call my friend" Obama just called Daley "One of America's greatest mayors."
Among the many dignitaries at the fund-raiser was Giannoulias' main Democratic primary opponent, former city of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman. Gov. Quinn, Speaker of the State House of Representatives Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were also there.
A more exclusive and expensive session in which people were able to shake hands and have their picture taken with Obama preceded the luncheon.
Obama has two more fund-raisers after that before heading back to Washington, D.C. On Wednesday night, he celebrated his 49th Birthday with friends including Oprah Winfrey at the Graham Elliot restaurant.