President Obama returns to Chicago on Saturday for a Democratic get-out-the-vote rally, his biggest event in the city since Election Night 2008 in Grant Park and his first free and public event here since moving into the White House. Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Common -- a South Side native -- will perform as Illinois Democrats search for votes in the final weekend of the campaign.
Former President Bill Clinton headlines a rally at the Palmer House this morning where people will be urged to walk over to City Hall and the County Building to cast an early vote after the rally is over.
The Clinton-Obama double feature comes as massive Democratic turnout from Chicago and the surrounding Cook County suburbs is crucial if the top of the Illinois ticket -- Gov. Quinn and Alexi Giannoulias, the Senate nominee -- are to have any chance against Republican governor and Senate contenders Bill Brady and Mark Kirk, closing their campaigns positioned to win.
Chicago is one of four stops for Obama on the final weekend before the Nov. 2 midterms. Before coming home, Obama will headline get-out-the-vote rallies Saturday in Philadelphia and Bridgeport, Conn. After spending a rare night in Chicago, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pair up in Ohio to host their last campaign rally, at Cleveland State University.
Obama's handful of visits to Chicago since becoming president have been either political fund-raisers, speeches to groups not open to the public and two family visits.
The Chicago rally -- as of Monday night the venue was not locked in -- is intended to draw tens of thousands of people. An Obama rally in Los Angeles on Oct. 22 drew 37,500, and 35,000 went to see Obama on Oct. 17 at Ohio State University.
The rallies are sponsored by the Democratic National Committee and its Organizing for America grass-roots division -- spawned by the Obama for America presidential campaign. "We expect a large-scale event this coming Saturday," said OFA spokesman Lynda Tran, "and we are working to accommodate many people."
I asked Kirk about the impact of Obama and Clinton -- the two biggest Democratic names in the country -- rallying voters in Illinois.
"While you always want the stars of your party to come in and it rallies up the base, I don't think it moves the needle that much," Kirk said. "In the end, people are going to be voting their pocketbooks."
But Giannoulias spokesman Scott Burnham said, "With time running out, you want your best team on the field. Unlike Mark Kirk, who hides John McCain and Mitch McConnell when they come to town for him, thousands of Illinois voters want to see Presidents Obama and Clinton who are intent on fixing our economy, creating jobs and moving our country forward."
Said Kirk, "In the end, I think the time of the big endorsements has past. This is now a contest between Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk."