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Clinton Backs Illinois Democrats At Chicago Rally

Send Your Concerns To Jay Levine
Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton (Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Tuesday’s storm may have been less than we expected, but remember, Chicago’s nickname, the Windy City, has nothing to do with the weather. It has to do with our windy politicians and the rhetoric they blow around, every bit of what we expected today, and then some. CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

Former President Bill Clinton was in Chicago Tuesday to attend a major Democratic rally. Clinton spoke for 50 minutes at a rally at the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe St.

He is campaigning for Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who is seeking President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, and Gov. Pat Quinn, who is fighting to keep his job.

Clinton’s Chicago-style rhetoric and connections might qualify him as an honorary Chicagoan. His Chicago connections include a wife from the suburbs, a primary here clinching his first presidential nomination, even his parents honeymooning at the Palmer House.

But Tuesday’s visit was all business.

“We love you, Bill! We miss you!” they yelled from the audience.

“I feel the same way about you,” he responded.

With his popularity in Illinois still undeniable, Clinton’s visit amounted to a rescue mission for candidates of a party presiding during some pretty tough times.

“Instead of just a referendum on people wanting it to be better, we all want it to be better,” Clinton told CBS 2. “The question is what do we want to do and who will do it?”

Clinton said every person on the stage could win and every person could lose.

When asked if that’s normal rhetoric or if this race is closer than others, Clinton said, “All these races are tight, according to the surveys. I feel pretty good about Illinois. I think the enthusiasm gap is closing.”

Even though the fundraising gap may be widening, due to a last-minute infusion of cash for Republican Mark Kirk.

“How much is your candidate for the Senate being outspent on television?” Clinton asked. “Karl Rove and his crowd have put in, Alexi told me, over $10 million.”

Kirk, who was addressing a Rotary Club luncheon two blocks away, seemed to say the more the merrier.

“Certainly we have outside groups in here, but our campaign has done very well,” Kirk said. “And I think we will see the First Amendment on full display here in Illinois.”

Kind of like two presidents here this week on behalf of the Democrat trying to retain Mr. Obama’s old Senate seat.

“I think the time for surrogates and other people is ending, and voters will see this as a contest between two candidates and two economic visions,” Kirk said.

Giannoulias seemed to agree.

“At the end of the day, this race is bigger than Barack Obama, bigger than Bill Clinton, bigger than me and bigger than Congressman Kirk,” said Giannoulias. “This, to me, is a race about the future of the United States.”

That may be a bit of an overstatement. Because once you get past the competing attack ads about resumes and loan records, you’ve got a pretty basic contest: Traditional Democrat versus a Liberal Republican.

Most believe it was Kirk’s race to lose. And right now, it’s a toss-up.

CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.