Former President Barack Obama will be in Chicago today in a last-minute, high-profile appeal to voters on behalf of Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker and the party’s other top hopefuls.
The former home-state president’s visit is meant to provide a closing statement for Democrats across the ballot in Illinois — including Pritzker, in his race against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Obama also recently cut an 11th-hour radio ad for Democratic attorney general hopeful Kwame Raoul for his contest against Erika Harold of Urbana. Democratic hopefuls for big suburban congressional races are planning to be with the former president, too.
A 3 p.m. rally at the UIC Pavilion caps a flurry of activity from high-profile politicians in the area during the campaign’s closing days, an indicator of the national and state importance in Illinois’ top races.
Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan was in the suburbs on Friday to help out the re-election bids of U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren of Plano and Peter Roskam of Wheaton. Their opponents Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten got help in St. Charles on Wednesday from former Vice President Joe Biden.
And President Donald Trump was in southern Illinois last weekend to try to help Downstate Republican congressional candidates.
Obama has campaigned for Pritzker before, appearing in Champaign-Urbana in September, and vilified Trump and the Republicans who control Congress, calling the GOP “radical” in using fear and division to hold power under the controversial president’s leadership.
On Friday, Pritzker was asked if, as the Rauner camp alleged, Obama’s visit was the sign of a tightening race for governor and an indication the Democrat needed help. Pritzker first responded by noting Rauner’s visit to Murphysboro a week ago at the Trump rally where the GOP governor did not meet the president and was not mentioned by him on stage.
“It’s ironic that the governor who tried to chase his president around in southern Illinois — who couldn’t even get a meeting with him and had to stand in the crowd hoping somebody might wave at him — is complaining that the president, the great president, Barack Obama, that’s coming here to support us, that somehow that that means we’re desperate. I think he’s the one that’s desperate,” Pritzker said.
Obama, Pritzker said, was coming to “support candidates up and down the ticket.” He said since the former president had already scheduled a visit to Gary, Ind., it made it more convenient to come to Chicago.
“We hope that we’re going to win up and down the state of Illinois and up and down the ticket, and in part it will be from the help of people like President Obama,” Pritzker said.