A top White House official blamed "extraneous factors" for Democrats' troubles this fall in President Obama's home state.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod blamed the political fallout from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D) time in office for some of the difficulties now facing Alexi Giannoulias (D) in his race for the president's old Senate seat and Gov. Pat Quinn's (D) bid for reelection.

"There were some extraneous factors in Illinois this year," Axelrod said on MSNBC, "including a lot of contretemps about how the president was replaced."

Illinois is considered a reliably Democratic state, but the party has struggled since late 2008, when Blagojevich was arrested and tried for allegations that he'd sought an appointment or political donations in exchange for his choice of an individual to fill Obama's old Senate seat.

Blagojevich's first trial ended in a mistrial, meaning the cloud of the former governor's scandal has lingered to a degree over Illinois Democrats.

Polls show Republican Bill Brady slightly ahead over Quinn in the state's governor's race, while Rep. Mark Kirk (R) leads Giannoulias 44-41 percent in the latest Chicago Tribune/WGN poll.

Obama will be in Chicago over the weekend to campaign for Democrats in the state and energize voters, but it's unclear whether it'll be enough to save the Senate and governor's seats for the Democrats in those races.

Axelrod said he ultimately expected Quinn and Giannoulias to prevail, though.

"There's a lot of fractiousness there," he explained. "That said, I'm confident we're going to win those elections."

Updated 10:57 a.m.