Five months after he secured the nomination, Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias doesn’t have the full support of the Illinois congressional delegation.
According to the Giannoulias campaign, four of the state’s 12 Democratic House members haven’t publicly endorsed the candidate — including Rep. Bobby Rush (D), who backed Giannoulias’s rival in the primary, and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), who has made favorable comments about Rep. Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.), the GOP Senate nominee.
“The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,” Rush said at that time.
Rush said Thursday that he is refraining from endorsing Giannoulias right now.
“Coming off the heels of the primary, Giannoulias was off to a shaky start, but, in recent weeks, he seems to have found his sea legs and righted his ship. To date, he appears to be pursuing a smoother path; however, I want to hear more about how he intends to address the various concerns of the people I represent in the 1st Congressional District,” Rush told The Hill in a statement.
Jackson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Another member, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D), isn’t listed by the campaign as a public endorser. But a spokesman for Lipinksi called that an oversight. “He supports the statewide ticket,” the spokesman said. “He doesn’t have a problem with Giannoulias.”
A spokesman for Rep. Jerry Costello (D), who also isn’t listed as an endorser by the Giannoulias campaign, said the lawmaker “fully supports” Giannoulias.
The Giannoulias campaign didn’t comment on why Lipinski and Costello weren’t listed as public supporters.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Gorsuch: I'm 'sorry' for ruling against autistic student MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the Senate leadership, backs Giannoulias and serves as his campaign chairman.
Observers believe the delegation will firmly coalesce behind Giannoulias, despite some early concerns about his age — he’s 34 — and his ties to his family’s failed bank.
“I would be surprised if everyone does not endorse and strongly back the Democratic ticket,” said Robert Creamer, a Washington-based Democratic consultant. Creamer’s wife, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), has publicly endorsed Giannoulias.
Creamer said that some Illinois politicians may have been reluctant to back a candidate considered to have significant baggage. “A lot of the early skepticism is just not rooted in fact,” he said.
Giannoulias had to weather some harsh media attention after his family’s Broadway Bank, where he used to work, was seized by federal regulators in April.
Kirk, meanwhile, has been on the defensive since a scandal erupted at the end of May over discrepancies in accounts of his military service and, later, about his experience as a nursery school teacher in New York. Kirk had literally been running from the press: He recently left a speech to the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago via the kitchen in order to avoid reporters. The five-term congressman tried to reclaim the initiative this week, holding his first press conference in weeks and releasing two TV ads.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), who backed Jackson in the primary, said Giannoulias “is going to be just fine.”
“In the last few weeks Mark Kirk himself has been his greatest help. Mark has been on the defensive for the last two weeks,” Davis told The Hill.
The seven-term congressman is now fully behind Giannoulias, despite backing Jackson in the primary. “I’m going to put forth an all-out effort to try and help him get elected,” he said.
Davis said that Giannoulias’s trouble with his family’s bank wouldn’t cripple his candidacy. “I don’t think anyone’s electing him to be a bank executive,” he said.
Davis wouldn’t say if Jackson would have made the better candidate against Kirk.
“I can’t make an assessment about how she would” do against Kirk, he said. “She did not win. … If you can’t beat somebody in a primary, I don’t have any reason to believe they would be stronger in the general.”
-- This story was updated on Friday, July 2, at 10:41 a.m.