By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Writer
CHICAGO--President Obama flew into Chicago Thursday night to raise money and enthusiasm for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias.
He also gave shout-outs to Gov. Quinn and other Democrats running for office.
And, without naming him, the president made a crack about his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who left the White House Friday to run for mayor of Chicago: ". . . By the way, have you seen my chief of staff?" Obama asked to laughter from 400 people under the 24 chandeliers of the Drake Hotel's ornate Gold Coast Room.
"I was like looking around, I was like, 'What happened?'"
At least three of Emanuel's rivals for mayor were in the audience at the Drake, including Rep. Danny Davis, who Obama gave a shout-out to. So was Rev. James Meeks, who served in the state senate with Obama; and Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers, Jr.
Obama gave Giannoulias a back-slapping hug on the way in and another one on the way out. This event and a more exclusive dinner after this fundraiser co-hosted by Leslie Bluhm, her sister Meredith Bluhm Wolf and her husband, David Hefland are expected to raise $750,000 to $800,000. The money raised is to be split between the Giannoulias campaign and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Giannoulias introduced Obama as "my friend, my mentor. . ."
Obama introduced Giannoulias as "the next senator from the great state of Illinois."
"Alexi is my friend. I know his character. I know how much he loves this country. I know how committed he is to public service," Obama said.
In an apparent reference to Giannoulias' opponent Mark Kirk, Obama said Giannoulias "doesn't shift with the wind."
"I've played basketball with him and I have still have some sore ribs to prove it. He's a competitor," the president said.