mocked the conspiracy theory that he was born in Kenya. “It’s been quite a year since I’ve spoken here last—lots of ups, lots of downs—except for my approval ratings, which have just gone down. But that’s politics. Beside[s], I happen to know that my approval ratings are still very high in the country of my birth…">
Carol Felsenthal
On politics

A Republican Ahead in Hawaii—A Sign of Things to Come in Illinois?

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, President Obama drew applause when he mocked the conspiracy theory that he was born in Kenya. “It’s been quite a year since I’ve spoken here last—lots of ups, lots of downs—except for my approval ratings, which have just gone down. But that’s politics. Beside[s], I happen to know that my approval ratings are still very high in the country of my birth…

Obama, Giannoulias, Palin, Kirk

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, President Obama drew applause when he mocked the conspiracy theory that he was born in Kenya. “It’s been quite a year since I’ve spoken here last—lots of ups, lots of downs—except for my approval ratings, which have just gone down. But that’s politics. Beside[s], I happen to know that my approval ratings are still very high in the country of my birth.”

Birthers notwithstanding, Obama is facing embarrassing setbacks in both his actual birthplace state (Hawaii) and his adopted home (Illinois). In Hawaii, which is in the throes of a special election for a congressional seat, a new poll shows Republican Charles Djou running ahead in the May 22 contest—perhaps not surprisingly because the Honolulu city councilman’s two Democratic opponents are splitting the vote. 

Still, a Republican should not be ahead in a state that is the actual birthplace of the President—and is as blue as pre-Scott Brown Massachusetts. Hawaii, which has two representatives, has sent only two Republicans to Washington since it became a state in 1959. (For the Republicans, the gloating could be short-lived. If Djou wins, he’ll have to defend the seat in the general election this November.)

And according to the Politico’s Ben Smith, the White House and Democratic officials are not conceding the seat. They are working to promote one of the Democrats, Ed Case, whom they believe has the better chance of defeating Djou. Obama, whose approval rating is at 73 percent in the state, is making “robocalls” urging voters to vote Democratic.

The Hawaii poll was released at around the same time as a Rasmussen poll of the U.S. Senate battle here between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. The poll has Kirk up eight points (46 to 38) in a race that will impact Obama’s standing more than any other on the busy ballot this November.

During the bitter final days of the Massachusetts Senate race in January, there was much talk about whether Obama would put his prestige on the line by going to Boston and campaigning for Martha Coakley, who was trailing Scott Brown. The president went, and she lost. For a time it seemed that Obama had taken the lesson and would keep his distance from Giannoulias, his former basketball buddy.

Alexi got the message and said glumly that he would not meet the President for a town-hall meeting in Quincy, Illinois—part of Obama’s three-day swing through the Midwest last week. But then there was a change of tactics by the White House. Giannoulias picked up on it and flew to Quincy. The President hugged him and gave what reporters called a “shout out.”

Rasmussen tends to trend right in its polling, and there are six months for Kirk to mess up, although the Naval Reserve intelligence officer is a disciplined campaigner. 

Usually, anyway. During the primary, Kirk awkwardly tried to court Sarah Palin, who ignored him. But, like images of Florida’s Charlie Crist hugging Obama, a Palin embrace—even if it’s not literal or reciprocated—could damage Kirk’s support among moderates and independents.

Now that he’s in a general election, Kirk is turning coy. Palin is coming to Rosemont on May 12th as the star attraction at an Illinois Republican Party gathering. With Congress in session, Kirk’s spokeswoman says her boss will be hard at work in Washington. Convenient.

In a race that will likely tighten considerably before November, all these variables—Obama, Palin, and who knows what else—could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

 

Photography: (Obama) Esther Kang; (Giannoulias, Palin, Kirk) Chicago Tribune

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4 years ago
Posted by Bernie Quigley

Scott Brown was helped by the Christmas bomber attempt. Prior to that he was 15 points behind. The attempt in NY the other day in Times Square may have a similar attack if Republicans are considered to be tougher on terrorism. And incidently, not to look for a silver lining in the dark cloud, but these continued attacks in NY would be good for Chicago. Traditionally, countries put their cultural centers in the middle of the country as it is safer than the edges. Just sayin.

4 years ago
Posted by jerpaul

Captain Kirt; ( Mr. Flexable)
Has served us Northshore folks well for many, many years,he never fails to show up to his many town hall meetings. He is an honorable guy, yet not perfect. Sometimes he has a change of heart as we all do over time! The people who serve us, must wear gym shoes, cause they have to be on both sides of the court depending on the ... problems of the day!
We tend to think one way when a gallon is close to $5.00 and a very different way when it dips below $3.00! It was drill baby,
drill today it's a new & different story. Go drill for oil is fine but it will not ever pass today after the report comes out. The oil slick today is the size of Texas! Thus a change of opinion in the political pipeline. Drilling for oil is fine but not near a USA shoreline!
Mr. President will have to back-peddle a bit on off shore drilling for now, so will Captain Kirt! jpb

4 years ago
Posted by Still Here

Actually, the oil slick was the size of Delaware this morning- it still has a way to go before it is the size of Texas but it may yet get there, unfortunately. Its hard to imagine that there will be any incumbents who will be viewed as good guys in this election, on either side of the aisle, but it is beyond me why anyone would think their opponentsw will be more virtuous, just less experienced.

It would be much better if voters chose cantidates for rational reasons, but I guess that is too much to ask.

4 years ago
Posted by H-bomb

I don't see how Obama's support could damage Giannoulias among Democrats. Sarah Palin is controversial enough that I could understand why Kirk would avoid her.

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