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And If He Loses?

"In electoral politics there are no silver medals," says Paul Green, a political science professor at Roosevelt University. "You don't get points for coming in second."

Still, at 47, Barack Obama would probably fare better after a defeat than past presidential wannabes like Al Gore and Senator John Kerry, who never repeated their runs for the highest office. Instead, Obama would have ample time and opportunity to run again for the White House and probably would do so, experts say. Until then, he would concentrate on being a senator.

"He could be a player for a long time. He would still be wildly popular with his core constituency of African Americans and young people," says Green, who adds that Obama's presidential quest would probably increase his stature and influence within the Senate. Green adds that it's highly unlikely Obama would make a run for Illinois governor—a scenario that has been raised occasionally—by entering into a primary fight against Governor Rod Blagojevich.

As for Chicago, if Obama loses, the city's claims on becoming the nation's de facto political capital would be dashed. Still, Jim Durkin, a Republican state representative from the western suburbs and state chairman of McCain for President, insists that if elected president, John McCain would not turn his back on the city or Illinois. McCain would strongly push for Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, for example. "He supports and wants it in Chicago," says Durkin. More generally, Durkin says, the city and county would benefit from McCain's tax policies. "McCain will be the last and best defense against higher taxing policies," Durkin says.

Polls show that Obama currently enjoys a considerable lead over McCain in Illinois.

A recent telephone survey found Obama leading, with 50 percent of voters favoring him, compared with 37 percent for McCain, according to Rasmussen Reports, an electronic publisher that is tracking the 2008 election.

One state GOP operative says it's unlikely the McCain camp will be investing much money to buy TV advertising time in Obama's home state. Instead, the Illinois GOP—which is underfunded and has been in an organizational shambles for years—will concentrate on tight races in the 10th, 11th, 14th, and 18th congressional districts.

-R. R.

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