President Obama will get a lot of the blame if the top of the Democratic ticket loses in his home state of Illinois -- it won't all be fair, but that's what pundits and Republicans will do.
But let's not forget who got the ball rolling to get the Illinois Democrats in this pickle in the first place: former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, convicted earlier this year of lying to federal agents and looking forward to a second trial next year on a series of corruption charges, including trying to sell Obama's old Senate seat.
The day Blagojevich was arrested -- Dec. 9, 2008 -- was the start of what became a series of political challenges for Illinois Democrats, who headed into today with a nail-biter. Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias and Gov. Quinn are in very tough races with Republicans Mark Kirk and Bill Brady.
Obama has campaigned hard in his home state for Giannoulias and Quinn (who became governor when Blagojevich was impeached) -- doing everything the candidates wanted him and his team, including first lady Michelle, to do: fund-raisers, ads and that big rally Saturday night in Hyde Park and breakfast at Valois Sunday morning.
But let's look at the what ifs . . .
If Blagojevich had not tried to finagle with the Senate seat -- and made a blue-chip appointment --Illinois Democrats would be running a strong incumbent. Instead, the politically untenable Sen. Roland Burris ended up in the seat.
And if the White House early on had recruited Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, then Kirk -- always the best hope for the Illinois GOP -- might not have jumped in the race.
A big part of the reason Madigan never seriously considered making the run is that the Obama White House declined to clear the field for her.
The Chicagoans then in the White House -- senior advisers David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and former chief of staff and now mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel -- argued that Team Obama was not in a position to clear the field in Illinois, the way they did in New York and tried to do in Pennsylvania.