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(AP photo) Obama at Yad Vashem

CHICAGO--Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill are touching down in battleground Ohio--in Cleveland-on Election Day en route to Chicago. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are also doing a last-minute stop in the city. The Biden visit had not been on his daily public schedule.

WASHINGTON--Gov. Pat Quinn--following on President Barack Obama's Tuesday call to raise the dropout age--will ask the Illinois legislature next week to boost the age students have to stay in school from 17 to 18.

"I like the fact that the president said kids have to stay in school until they are 18. Jobs follow brainpower. We have to understand that investing in education, including community colleges, is the key to a nimble economy," Quinn said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday morning.

Quinn's office said in a Friday release he will propose hiking the drop-out age this year in his annual State-of-the-State address next week.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama called on every state to require students to stay in high school until they graduate or reach 18.

Some 20 states already have that requirement; Illinois does not. In 2005, Illinois increased the dropout age from 16 years old to 17.

Obama made the proposal because stronger anti-dropout laws keeps students in school longer--thus increasing their lifetime earning potential.

WASHINGTON--Former Illinois treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who lost his Democratic Senate race is off to Buenos Aires, he told me, heading to Argentina to recharge and "write a book about the campaign and getting young people involved."

Catching up here; Giannoulias called to say he was leaving Chicago for a few months on Wednesday, while I was covering the arrivals at the China State dinner.

Mark Kirk, new Illinois Senator

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Mark Kirk took the Senate oath of office on Monday, sworn in by Vice President Biden and flanked by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) the last Illinois Republican in the Senate, to fill in the weeks left to President Obama's Senate term.

Vice President Biden will swear-in Rep. Mark Kirk as Illinois' newest senator at 5:30 p.m. eastern time on Monday. Kirk talked to Sun-Times political reporter Abdon Pallasch about his new job. Today marks the end of Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) tenure in the Senate.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen.-elect Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have their first meeting Thursday morning to discuss issues where they can work together. Kirk, who will be sworn in on Nov. 29 to fill the unexpired weeks left of President Obama's Illinois senate term, has vowed to stop several Democratic measures Senate leadership--that includes Durbin--want to push in the lame duck session. Though there is an ideological divide between Durbin and Kirk, I think there are a variety of Illinois matters--such as issues dealing with Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes--where they may find agreement.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who had been serving as an appointee of former, impeached and convicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, makes his farewell speech from the Senate floor at about 11 a.m. Chicago time on Thursday.

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Mark Kirk during campaign at Navistar headquarters town hall event. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

Illinois senator-elect Mark Kirk will be sworn in on Nov. 29, starting his new Senate career early to fill the remainder of President Barack Obama's original Senate term. Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) tenure ends when Kirk is sworn in. Kirk sent out a save-the-date on Monday:


Please Save the Date
For a Reception Celebrating the Swearing-In of:
Mark Steven Kirk
United States Senator
Monday, November 29, 2010
Washington, DC
Invitation and Details to Follow

Alexi Giannoulias is NOT running for Chicago mayor--despite some aldermen trying to woo the Illinois Democratic Senate nominee who lost to Republican Mark Kirk into the contest as part of their scheming to stop mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel.

Ginnoulias spokesman Kathleen Strand said in a statement issued on Friday: "To put all rumors to rest, before they get out of hand, Alexi is not running for Mayor. He didn't get into public service to just run for office. He believes in public service, and his plans are to faithfully serve out the remainder of his term as Treasurer and then pursue other opportunities. Alexi loves this City and will provide whatever assistance he can now or in the future to Mayor Daley, the City Council and the next Mayor."

On Thursday I reported how Giannoulias was going to meet Friday with some anti-Emanuel aldermen to at least hear them out and learn more about a poll commissioned by a labor union not enamored with the notion of a Mayor Emanuel.

State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) make their bids official on Sunday. Attorney Gery Chico and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun are also running in the Feb. 22 non-partisan mayoral primary. Candidates need to file 12,500 valid signatures by Nov. 22 to get on the ballot so as a practical matter, anyone not in by now--is probably not really in at all. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote on Feb. 22, the top two finishers face an April 5 run-off.

Illinois Democrats lost the Senate seat and three, possibly four of the big House races but kept Gov. Quinn and both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly. The Democratic win for Quinn is due in part to the get-out-the-vote effort Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and state Senate president John Cullerton (D-Chicago.) Dems tell me it was the biggest GOTV effort since 1962. Illinois Republicans fielded their largest ground game ever.

Some statistics from the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign:

*Across Illinois, over 23,200 people knocked on doors and made phone calls over the final four days, many of them filling multiple volunteer shifts.There were 8,000 people on the street on election day alone

*They knocked on over 975,000 doors and made over 380,000 phone calls over the last four days.

*More than 50 percent of these voter contact efforts were concentrated in Cook County. These efforts resulted in higher than expected voter turnout within Chicago (over 50%). African American turnout was up from 2006 in many south side neighborhoods and southern Cook County townships.

In the last four days, President Obama and Vice President Biden recorded robocalls called Illinois voters.

*80,000 Biden
*240,000 Obama Vote tomorrow
*240,000 Obama Vote today

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(Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

Sen-elect Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias hoisted beers over at the Billy Goat saloon on Thursday, after a bitter Illinois Senate contest. The Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch has the report here.

The Democratic slaughter Tuesday will make it harder for President Obama to govern -- but might make it easier for him to win re-election in 2012.

The Obama White House will shift into re-election mode in a few months, and the 2012 presidential campaign headquarters will be Chicago again, if all goes as planned. But for now, a lot of attention on the political front will have to be on dealing with a GOP-controlled House and a Senate where Republican gains will make it harder to get the 60 votes needed to get anything done. Obama will reach out to Republicans during his press conference today.

After keeping a low profile in Illinois contests, Sarah Palin in the closing days of the campaign cut a robocall for the Faith & Freedom Coalition sent to 500,000 to Illinois homes with conservative voters.

Palin's Illinois script:

Hello Illinois, this is Sara Palin urging you to go to the polls on Tuesday or even better vote early.

We have some simple choices this year. America needs to return to conservative, common sense and time tested truth. We need leaders who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, stronger families and a robust unapologetic national defense.

The momentum is on our side but it isn't over until the polls close. So please go to the polls and vote for the candidates who share your value. Urge your friends and family to vote too.

Thank you and God bless you.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff who was an architect of the 2006 Democratic House sweep, is using his e-mail list to spur Democratic turn out.

Emanuel earlier sent out an appeal for Democrat Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias; today's appeal if for the ticket.

sweet-kirk.jpg(photo by Lynn Sweet)

Illinois GOP candidate Mark Kirk voted a little after 10 a.m. Tuesday morning in Highwood, not far from his north suburban home in Ft. Sheridan. He said hi to some kids playing in the gym of the community center on Green Bay Road en route to the room where the election was being held.

Talking to reporters afterwards, a chipper Kirk said "Well, I voted twice for Senate," a reference to the Illinois quirk where voters are filing the regular six-year term and the unexpired term of President Obama of just a few weeks.


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.

FOX News poll tracks with the latest PPP poll, predicting GOP wins in Illinois on Tuesday, with third party candidates maybe spoilers for Democrats Alexi Giannoulias running for Senate and Gov. Quinn.

FOX ILLINOIS SENATE Republican Mark Kirk, 46 to Giannoulias, 42, to Green Party LeAlan Jones, 6

FOX ILLINOIS GOVERNOR Republican Bill Brady, 44 percent to Quinn 38 percent. "In this race, the Democrat is suffering at the hands of two minor candidates, the Green Party's Rich Whitney and independent Scott Lee Cohen," Fox found.


A poll by YouGov.com has a split result for the top of the Illinois ticket: In the hotly contested Senate contest, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is at 47 to 44 for Republican Mark Kirk. In the race for governor, Bill Brady is at 47 to 40 for Gov. Quinn.


From YouGov: Interviews with 1000 registered voters, including 784 likely voters, were conducted October 25-30, 2010

PPP poll released on Monday morning. In the Illinois Senate, Mark Kirk is over Alexi Giannoulias 46-42 and Bill Brady is ahead of Pat Quinn 45-40 for Governor--results outside the margin of error.

PPP surveyed 814 likely Illinois voters on October 30th and 31st. The margin of error for
the survey is +/- 3.4%.

Check out the e-Voter widget on my blog--right side, scroll down--to find out where you vote on Tuesday and a sample ballot customized for your home address.

President Obama gave yet another plug to Democratic Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias and Gov. Quinn on Sunday, taking them to breakfast at Valois, the famous Hyde Park restaurant. Read the Sun-Times report from Abdon M. Pallasch and Dave McKinney here. This comes the day after Obama headlined a rally for Quinn and Giannoulias in Hyde Park. After breakfast, Obama flew to Cleveland for another get-out-the vote rally and jetted back to the White House to take part in Halloween festivities.


A few blocks from his Kenwood house, and down the street from the University of Chicago Law school where he taught, President Obama returned home Saturday for a nostalgic rally on the Midway Plaisance designed to push Gov. Quinn and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias over the finish line on Tuesday.

Obama has done a series of get-out-the-vote rallies in past weeks -- Chicago was his third of the day and he hits Cleveland today for another one with Vice President Joe Biden -- but the Chicago one was special because it was home turf. If he can't convince Democrats in Illinois to turn out in big numbers, then he's got a problem -- that's what the Republicans will say, and what Democrats might be too polite to say out loud.

rally chicago1.jpegCrowd on The Midway waiting for President Obama. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

The Democratic National Committee on Saturday transfered money to a handful of state Democratic parties, with Illinois getting the largest chunk, $950,000, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. The DNC is making the transfer as President Obama headlines a big rally at the University of Chicago this evening.

The DNC is sending money to states where Democrats are scrambling to survive: $470,000 to Florida, $200,000 to New Hampshire, $50,000 to Nevada, $325,000 to Pennsylvania, $125,000 to Wisconsin, $100,000 to Colorado and Maine, $300,000 to Ohio, $50,000 to Nebraska and $5,000 to New Mexico.

Illinois Democrats are heading into the final weekend before the Tuesday election optimistic about the chances for Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias and Gov. Quinn based on an analysis of early voting turnout in Illinois by the Democratic National Committee. The early voting turnout is coming from Chicago and Cook County, according to the DNC, Democratic strongholds. With the Illinois governor and Senate contest a toss-up in most polls, turnout is the key. President Obama headlines a rally in Hyde Park on Saturday for the Democratic Illinois ticket.

UPDATE
Reply from a Republican Strategist to Democratic memo:

"DNC memo on Illinois early vote reads as nothing more than a CYA. The fact that they cooked up numbers on a Friday night right before POTUS arrives tells you everything you need to know. Won't be enough to explain loss of Obama's seat on Tuesday. Nice try though." END UPDATE


Below, analysis from the Democratic National Committee.....

Early voting is underway in Illinois and Democrats have a clear lead.

· So far, 298,113 Illinois voters have cast ballots including 174,739 Democrats (58.6% of those who have voted so far) and 83,166 Republicans (27.9%). (Note: Illinois does not have party registration, so Democrats are defined as those who have voted in a Democratic primary and Republicans are defined as those who have voted in a Republican primary.)

· Cook County is the most Democratic county in the state, and Cook County is voting at one of the highest rates of any county in the state. While only 38.5% of all registrants are from Cook County, 43.5% of all ballots cast so far are from Cook County.

· In fact, there are more Democratic primary voters from Cook County who have already voted than there are Republican primary voters who have already voted in the entire state of Illinois. This is despite the fact that Cook County makes up only 38.5% of registered voters and 43.5% of those who have voted so far.

· According to the latest DNC modeling analysis incorporating today's early vote returns, Giannoulias leads by more than 6 points among those who have already voted, and this lead has been growing since early voting began in Illinois two weeks ago.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the 2010 Illinois Senate race category.

2010 Illinois Governor is the previous category.

2011 Chicago mayors race is the next category.

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