Election 2010: Voters in Illinois got extra attention from Obama

A Republican dogging allegations he lied about his military service faces a Democrat who is accused of lending money to criminals. The battle for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama is all coming down to trust. (Nov. 1)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 4:46 PM

CHICAGO - Election officials in Illinois are expecting a turnout Tuesday of about 50 percent, which they say is the normal rate for a non-presidential year. What isn't average in this year's election is the sort of attention the election has received from President Obama and the first lady.

At a polling place in Hyde Park, Obama's neighborhood, an election watcher said that turnout there seemed high.

"We have had pretty steady turnout, I think we will reach 400 or 500 voters," said Rosalee Atkins, who was directing voting operations at the United Church of Christ, where 705 voters are on the rolls. "We had the heaviest traffic this morning and are expecting another big flow after people get of from work."

While some voters had made up their mind, Marcus Warren, 26, was still undecided. He voted for Obama in 2008, but sounded a note of disillusionment with the process.

"I've seen a lot more mudslinging commercials this year than I typically see and I don't care for the two party system anymore," Ware said. "People aren't saying vote for policies, they are saying vote for this party and if you don't, the other side will win."

Voters in Illinois have been deluged with a crush of advertising in statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate and some seemed to be turned off and confused by what they were hearing about the candidate.

"I don't know what the issues are or who to believe" said John Schaefer, 28. "I figure I'll just ask my dad."

In his last, fast and furious campaign stretch, Obama drew a screaming, lovestruck, loyal crowd of 35,000 to a rally at a park here, not too far from where he gave his victory speech in November 2008.

More than any other race, the results in the Land of Lincoln will be a litmus test of just how much of that old Obama magic remains. And all eyes are on who will fill Obama's former seat.

The outcome will be read either as an Obama-powered stand against the Republican tide, or a repudiation of all things Obama.

Both the president and the first lady have gone all in to keep the seat blue, appearing at fundraisers and in a campaign ad for Alexi Giannoulias, the 34-year-old state treasurer and self-styled Obama protege running against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk.

Polls show a race too close to call, with undecideds breaking evenly for both candidates in the last weeks. Kirk's lead has been the most steady and stable but still within the margin of error.

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