Durbin: Alexi will 'surge forward' with Obama's backing

President Obama's Chicago rally with Alexi Giannoulias will help the struggling Democrat's campaign "surge forward," according to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).

"The president's still well-liked, very popular in Illinois," Durbin told The Ballot Box. "And his endorsement of Alexi is a dramatic surge forward in this campaign. Not only in terms of raising money but also in terms of making it clear that the White House is on board and helping every way it can."

Obama's Chicago event Tuesday raised an estimated $1 million for Giannoulias's Senate run.

Durbin deflected a question about the records that emerged this week that show jailed developer Tony Rezko held an ownership stake in a development project that received a previously undisclosed loan from the Giannoulias family's Broadway Bank.

"The Rezko contribution to [Republican Senate candidate] Mark Kirk?," Durbin asked coyly. "I only know about the Rezko contribution to Mark Kirk."

Rezko gave $1,000 to Kirk in 2000, according to the Federal Election Commission. In April, the Kirk camp announced that it donated his contribution to charity, as well as the campaign contributions the congressman took from five other people who pleaded guilty in related corruption schemes.

Regarding the Nov. 2 special election for the remainder of Obama's unexpired Senate term, Durbin said he wasn't concerned about Sen. Roland Burris's (D-Ill.) suggestion he could take legal action to force his way onto the ballot. "I think the court has made it clear that he can't do that," he said. "I don’t think there's any other way for anyone to come on the ballot."

Meanwhile, Democrats are aware the new senator could arrive in time to influence the agenda in a lame-duck session of the Senate. "Of course it is [a concern]," Durbin said. "I trust the voters of our state; they'll take this seriously. I don't think they'll try to do something clever."

The newly-elected senator won't be certified until the end of November, he noted. "I don’t know how long the lame duck will go, but I feel confident that we're going to do very well."

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