Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kirk defeats Giannoulias to win Obama's Senate seat in Illinois

President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat moved into Republican hands Tuesday as U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk narrowly defeated Democratic Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, an Obama protégé and basketball buddy.

The campaign played out in negative TV ads focused on the candidates' credibility. Kirk, 51, acknowledged that he had exaggerated his military record. Giannoulias, 34, defended his management of a state college savings program and the collapse of a bank his family owned.

"The reason the race was very close is that neither candidate was able to take advantage of what should be strengths," says Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Giannoulias is "bright, engaging," and his job as treasurer should have highlighted his economic qualifications, he says. Kirk's win, Redfield says, followed the playbook for how a Republican can win in Illinois: "Don't scare swing voters in the suburbs." Kirk focused on his foreign policy and military credentials as a Navy reservist.

Redfield's comments were featured in a November 3, 2010, article in USA Today.

Download a PDF of the article