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The Mechanics

Democrats Thu Dec 31 2015

Where are the Peace Candidates?

Americans are statistically more likely to be killed by a storm or by their neighbor's dog than fall victim to an ISIS marauder or jihad-inspired rando. Nonetheless, the Conventional Wisdom seized on the Paris and San Bernardino massacres to declare that national security was now the top issue in the presidential campaign. Thus seemingly the entire first half of the most recent presidential debates consisted of "moderators" pressing the candidates not only to affirm being on board the national mass hysteria train, but to state how much coal they were ready to shovel into the firebox. As a result, you can search the entire 20,000-word transcript for the third Democratic debate without stumbling across the word "peace" passing any candidate's lips.

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Jeff Smith

Elections Sun Oct 31 2010

Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama Photo Essay

Democrats rallied on the Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park on Saturday evening for the "Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama." The estimated 35,000 attendees heard performances by Chicago rockers Dot Dot Dot and hip-hop artist Common, as well as speeches by a variety of officials and citizens, including Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senator Richard Durbin, State Treasurer and US Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Governor Pat Quinn, Alderman and Cook County President Candidate Toni Preckwinkle and -- of course -- President Barack Obama.

A photo essay of the event by David Schalliol is below.

David Schalliol / Comments (2)

Elections Sun Oct 17 2010

Corporate Cash Flooding IL, National Federal Races

Holding signs with slogans such as "RepubliCorp: we buy democracy, one race at a time," members of MoveOn from Chicago and the northern suburbs held a press conference on Friday, Oct. 15 at the Northbrook office of Congressman Mark Kirk, who is also a candidate for U.S. Senate, to draw attention to a report entitled Buying Democracy: The impact of corporate and right-wing front groups on elections in llinois. The report's findings reinforce what many Americans have become aware of in recent weeks, namely, that an unprecedented flood of shadowy cash is making its way into the 2010 election. The northern Illinois group held their presentation in coordination with other MoveOn efforts taking place in all 50 states.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (21)

IL-GOV Wed Feb 03 2010

In Case Of A Close Election

Eric Kleefeld explains here that doing a recount is particularly tricky in Illinois. It's an important fact to consider since a number of Tuesday's primaries were rather close.
In terms of Hynes versus Quinn, or Miller versus Krishnamoorthi, or Plummer versus Murphy, the leads were small but also consistent. I doubt that if any of the underdogs went through the whole recount process they'd actually muster more than maybe three thousand votes at best and that's still not enough to close the gap.

Daniel Strauss

Elections Wed Feb 03 2010

Yes We Can?

I sat down this morning to write a piece about how disappointment over the Hoffman defeat last night--who, by the way, was supported by every individual in Chicago I spoke with about the subject, though he lost here 36-29-29 (thank you, @chitownpolitics)--should not end our commitment to the Senate fight. If our health care and foreign policy goals remain today what they were yesterday, it is exceedingly important that the seat is filled with not just a Democrat, but a Democrat as faithful an Obama supporter as Giannoulias.

At election's close, listening to Hoffman concede on WBEZ, I sent out some comments into the twitter-shpere and the vocalo live blog (which deserves its own post--seriously, that shit was crazy):

we tried. At an unusual moment, we've got an uphill battle ahead. But we can work together and do it.

Chicagoans are going to have to show mobilization of Obama proportions--large swaths of state will love Kirk's banker narrative of Giannoulias.

The disappoint stems from this:

Continue reading this entry »

Danny Fenster / Comments (7)

IL-Senate Campaign Mon Feb 01 2010

Collins On Illinois

Columnist Gail Collins has a special column up at The New York Times website about the Illinois elections. Here's a taste:

The Republicans are in the Scott Brown zone. Kirk is running around reminding people that the Senate seat in question is "not Obama's seat but the people's seat," and doing everything to look Brownlike short of taking off his clothes for a Cosmo spread.

Daniel Strauss

IL-Senate Campaign Thu Jan 28 2010

Reading Nate Silver Could Have Saved Some Time

The political series of tubes is all a-flutter thanks to a new PPP poll which has Alexi Giannoulias with a fairly strong lead over Mark Kirk in a general election matchup:

In a reminder that contested primaries can be a good thing Alexi Giannoulias has jumped out to a 42-34 lead over Mark Kirk in the race to be Illinois' next Senator. When PPP last looked at such a match up in April the two were tied at 35.

One key thing to look at when Republicans try to win in blue states like Illinois is how the moderates are voting. Scott Brown won their votes in Massachusetts last week, something that has become a very rare occurrence for GOP candidates in the past few election cycles. Right now Giannoulias is ahead of Kirk 45-25 with them. Kirk will have to make some significant in roads there if he's going to win this fall.

It should be noted that Nate Silver projected a Giannoulias lead about a week ago.

Daniel Strauss

IL10 Race Wed Jan 20 2010

MA Lesson: Never Let Your Guard Down

There's a post up over at the excellent 10th District Advocate blog comparing Illinois's upcoming senate battle to what happened in Massachusetts. The post makes some good points: Julie Hamos is a bit like Martha Coakley and just because you're in a very blue state doesn't mean it can never go red. Most astutely, it highlights an important lesson from last night and it's not "stay frosty," it's "pick the right candidate."

The problem in the Massachusetts senate special election was that the Democrats thought one of theirs would win nomatter who it was so factoring in the ability to win a general election didn't happen. The same mistake could easily happen in Illinois, as the 10th District Advocate warns in terms of picking Dan Seals or Julie Hamos. The lesson also applies to the upcoming Illinois senate race. The truth is, Mark Kirk is a much stronger candidate than he could be (certainly far more viable than Scott Brown in MA). Liberal voters should remember last night when they go to the voting booth.

And the same goes for Illinois Republicans. Don't presume Mark Kirk will win the nomination. In fact, Tea Party Nation (a.k.a. the far right) is gearing up to help conservative challenger Pat Hughs to beat Kirk and win the Republican nomination. If there's anything that last night taught us, it's that anything is possible.

UPDATE: Chicagoist highlighted a poll today noting Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk, the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees vying for Senator Burris's senate seat, are neck and neck.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (6)

IL-Senate Campaign Fri Jan 01 2010

Second Thoughts On Martin, Kirk, And Gay Rights

I may have spoken too soon on the question of whether Andy Martin's accusation of Mark Kirk being gay will hurt him. My rethinking began while I was reading James Warren's column. In it he writes:

Mr. Kirk, who is divorced, voted against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and supported legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

I predict Kirk's voting record on gay rights will come up a lot more--perhaps everytime the topic is written about-- and whether the piece encourages or refutes Martin's accusation, Kirk's pro-gay rights voting record will be called to attention everytime. That won't play well with the conservative base which Kirk has shown he values.


Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

IL-Senate Campaign Fri Jan 01 2010

Silver Projects Alexi Slightly Ahead

Nate Silver, statistician extraordinaire and a former Chicago resident, posted his Senate Rankings, December 2009 Edition. On Illinois he had this to say:

11. Illinois (D-Burris) -- Rasmussen actually shows a tiny bit of momentum toward the Democrat Giannoulias. Mark Kirk is in a somewhat awkward position; he was elected repeatedly in Democratic-leaning IL-10 by running unashamedly as a moderate, but that's not where the GOP zeitgeist is this year and he's accumulated a more conservative voting record. I don't care how bad the national environment is -- I'm not sure you can win by reflexively opposing Barack Obama's agenda in Barack Obama's home state.

Daniel Strauss

IL-Senate Campaign Mon Dec 21 2009

Isn't It More Important To Appeal To Liberals In A Blue State?

It seems Mark Kirk is ever-so-slightly in danger of being Scozzfavaed. The possibility, as Talking Points Memo's Christina Bellantoni reports is rather slim and the NRSC isn't taking it seriously but there are six weeks to go and anything could happen. Primaries aside, I'm still having serious trouble picturing a Republican nominee other than Kirk having any chance at all of winning Burris's senate seat, especially if he/she is farther to the right than Kirk. The argument that I'd always heard about Kirk's chances was that he was a staunch moderate with enough crossover appeal to take advantage of a year (like this one) where the Democrats weren't at their best. He could steal some moderate Democrats while the Democratic candidates bickered amongst themselves.

But it seems the right doesn't think being a moderate is so valuable: In a statement in response to Bellantoni's post the NRSC said:

"The reality is that with less than six weeks before the primary, Mark Kirk is in the driver's seat while the Democrats are in the midst of a very divisive primary that is forcing all of their candidates to the left," said the NRSC's Brian Walsh. "Good spin should at least have some basis in reality, and in this case what we're seeing from our Democrat friends is that in Illinois it clearly does not."

Moving farther to the left might indeed be a bad thing in other states, but in a state that hasn't gone red since 1988 (Illinois), I just don't see how that could possibly hurt a senate candidate. Hell, that was the case I'd been hearing for why Kirk was a threat. I think the real danger for Kirk is going farther to the right before he even gets the nomination.

Daniel Strauss

IL-Senate Campaign Mon Nov 30 2009

Mark Kirk Learned That He Isn't Sarah Palin

The political world is abuzz about Chicago's own Congressman Mark Kirk, who tried to get a "Death Panels"-style meme going but failed miserably. You can read the history here, here, or here. There isn't much more to say on the facts of this story.

I do have some thoughts, though. One aspect of this that hasn't been focused on enough is that Kirk actually thought twisting the truth the way Palin does was worth the risk; he thought it was an effective political strategy. What Kirk didn't realize is that Sarah Palin gets attention more because what she says is unbelievable, outrageous and weak in the truth department than because she is arguably a politician was a politician. Palin is more entertainment than serious policy. Kirk is still regarded--comparatively--as a more serious politician with a better track record and a more promising future. (Let's be real here--Palin will never be president. Period.). Because of that difference, and the fact that Kirk is in a state that remains blue and hesitant to Republicans' accusatory statements about healthcare reform, he will receive more serious scrutiny and less attention, even proportionately, to Sarah Palin.


Daniel Strauss

IL-Senate Campaign Tue Nov 24 2009

Hoffman Aims for the Lights on the Mag Mile


I was unfortunately caught in the midst of Saturday evening's Lights Festival on Michigan Avenue. Just as I was looking for shelter off of Chicago Avenue, a young man passed me this flyer--an ad for Senate hopeful David Hoffman, whose bid Ramsin has discussed in the past. In his ads, Hoffman is emphasizing his experience as the independent Inspector General of Chicago, arguing that "he exposed scams and corruption that cost taxpayers millions" and as a member of the Illinois Reform Commission, where he "helped lead the drive to clean up our state's pay-to-play politics."


Sheila Burt

IL-Senate Campaign Tue Sep 15 2009

Kirk Wins The Battle But Stays Vulnerable For The War

Illinois Congresman Mark Kirk's explanation for his contradictory stance on climate change legislation is a good one but I don't think it's as good as some are saying. Basically, Kirk voted for a climate bill against the wishes of the Republican base because it was narrowly in favor in his district. He now says that if he's elected to the senate he'll go with the will of his party and vote against similar legislation. At the rally this little dance turned boos to cheers.

Meh. It was a pretty smooth move but now Alexi Giannoulias or whoever can easily turn this back around and paint Kirk as unreliable --who knows whose wishes he'll listen to next, especially as a senator over the overall liberal Illinois!

But I think there's a deeper problem here. The danger is that this campaign angle could work. Kirk could get elected thinking that as long as he pays close attention to public opinion and makes decisions with it in mind, he'll be a great politician. But crafting strong legislation takes a long time and requires a great deal of certainty by politicians for good policies to pass. In contrast, public opinion can (and often does) change in the blink of an eye. As I've said in the past, in theory it makes sense to pay attention to only their constituents in deciding what stance to take but in actuality that's not such a good idea. Public opinion is an incredibly undependable entity, good policy is not. Politicians need to be stubborn to a degree because even those who they represent will have doubts at moments.

If Kirk could somehow talk more about how he'll pay more attention to the actual policies that he needs to take a stance on as a senator and do it with the welfare of his constituents in mind then he'd really deserve cheers.


Daniel Strauss / Comments (1)

IL-Senate Campaign Thu Aug 06 2009

Giannoulias (Possibly) Does it Right

There were murmurs that the White House was backing Lisa Madigan for Senate over Giannoulias, despite the friendship between Giannoulias and the President, because of the questions the Treasurer's family's bank business would raise, and the connections to the President to be inferred. Well, if that was ever the case, call that person in the White House a genius.

Hannity is using the shaky connections of Giannoulias to Rezko et al to cast aspersions on the President. Now, it's not like it takes much to get Hannity to attack the President; Hannity is a human parasite when he's not a purring lap dog.

Giannoulias' campaign has responded with a Twitter post (I know, I know; a "tweet") linking to a Daily Kos diary debunking the Hannity allegations. My question is, why bother? It seems to me that we're headed for a Giannoulias-Kirk election, and in a state like Illinois, if you watch Hannity's show, you can barely bring yourself to vote for Mark Kirk, much less Alexi Giannoulias.

That's on the one hand. On the other, today's Democratic political campaign professionals increasingly come from a generation that cut their teeth in the 2004 Presidential, and the combination of the Dean smears in Iowa and the Kerry Swift Boat ads were extremely hard lessons: you cannot leave accusations un-addressed. Firm and rapid response to accusations is considered elemental in political campaigns, but is this the best way to do it?

The answer may be provided by a crew of academics, Norbert Schwarz, Larry Hanna, et al. In their clearly mass-market titled study "Metacognitive Experiences and the Intricacies of Setting People Straight", Schwarz et al, argue that the traditional "myth versus fact" model of public information fails because it ends up reinforcing myths as facts. People tend to retain the myths, particularly if they've heard them before. And the facts, because they tend to be long, drawn-out explanations, tend to be forgotten or confused. In any case, not retained. While the paper doesn't propose a specific solution, there is a general conclusion that in public information efforts, the myths should not be repeated, but rather the correct facts should just be asserted.

In his Daily Kos diary, Giannoulias doesn't repeat the myths--though he does include a link to the video--but he addresses each of the Hannity smears, addressing them by topic. Now this is on a website dedicated to "electing Democrats", so it wasn't exactly prepared for the general public. But if that's the case, why address it there, anyway? Hannity's viewers likely aren't voting for the Treasurer, and Kos readers aren't going to vote for Kirk. The intended audience could just in fact be the media, which might pick up the Hannity smears as a story in themselves and begin reporting on them. If that's the case, it may have been a better idea to simply have a one-pager prepared for distribution when the press comes a-calling, with links and citations. By tweeting and posting a DKos diary about, Giannoulias may be making it "a thing". For example, here I am writing about it.

The battleground for the Senate race, like the Governor's race, will likely end up being in Chicago's suburbs, where moderate voters have fled the increasingly right wing Republican Party. However, their newfound support of Democrats is probably not deep enough to keep them from splitting their tickets. Obama's popularity notwithstanding, one-party control of the state, and year after year of brutal budget fights in Springfield, have wrecked the image of a party that already labors under the specter of "Chicago Democratic Machine" of years past. Giannoulias wants to be careful not to be linked to that Chicago/Madigan machine. Giannoulias built some cred by bucking the Madigan choice and defeating the Party's chosen candidate for Treasurer, Paul Mangieri, in 2006.

It seems to me that Giannoulias' popularity will track well with President Obama's. The Hannity-style smears are focused on tying the Treasurer to the President on scandals that have either mostly been addressed or which didn't stick to the President last time around. If President Obama is still as popular as he is now in Illinois next year, Kirk will have trouble anyway.

In retrospect, Kirk's power play with Andy McKenna was unavoidable. If he had to survive a GOP primary by defending his right, he'd risk losing those suburban voters who find right wing rhetoric unappealing in the general. Without that fight, Kirk stands a much better chance of winning those voters over. But one personality who will not have an impact on that dynamic is Sean Hannity.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

GB store


Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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