CHICAGO (AP) _ President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders will work hard to keep his former Senate seat within the party after Republicans snatched away a key seat in Massachusetts, a top adviser to the president said Monday.
David Axelrod cautioned it would be wrong to think that what happened last week, when a Republican won the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat, would happen again in Illinois in November.
“Illinois, I think, is strongly inclined to Democratic candidates, though you have to run good campaigns and good candidates,'' he said.
Axelrod, who was home in Chicago to headline a fundraiser at a center for the developmentally disabled where his adult daughter lives, also said he expects Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to keep his job. And he knocked down rumors that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel might run for mayor of Chicago.
Five Democrats are running for Obama's old Senate seat, including Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Urban League chief Cheryle Jackson and former city of Chicago inspector general David Hoffman.
A recent Chicago Tribune poll showed the 33-year-old Giannoulias with a sizable lead, although more than a quarter of voters were undecided ahead of the Feb. 2 primary.
The winner will face a Republican nominee from a crowded GOP field that includes front-runner Mark Kirk, a five-term congressman from Chicago's northern suburbs.
Axelrod avoided weighing in on Illinois' contentious Democratic primary race for governor between Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes.
“I miss Chicago every day. I'm homesick every day, but the one virtue of being away is that I don't have to be in the middle of a contest between very good friends,'' Axelrod said.
On other matters, Axelrod said Bernanke has the votes to keep his job and should be confirmed because he has provided “strong leadership'' through the nation's financial crisis.
“I am confident that he will be reconfirmed,'' Axelrod said.
Some opposition to Bernanke had started to emerge because of public anger over the economy. But senators have begun voicing support for Bernanke and there's growing optimism in Washington that he'll be confirmed.
Axelrod also said people should relax about rumors that Emanuel wants to run for Chicago mayor next year.
He said he expects Mayor Richard Daley to run for re-election. And Emanuel, he said, doesn't come to work every morning at the White House saying he wants to run for office.
“I'd suggest everybody calm down on that story,'' Axelrod said.
Pictured above is David Axelrod.