Fired up by DNC, Illinois Dems vow to 'fight like hell' until November

September 6, 2012

By Tony Arnold and Alex Keefe

(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
The view from the Illinois delegation's spot on the floor at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., as President Barack Obama accepted his party's 2012 nomination.

Illinois Democratic Party stalwarts emerged from their national convention Thursday night energized by President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, while acknowledging they have a tough few months of campaigning ahead of November’s elections.

Illinois’ delegation to the Democratic National Convention, seated front and center on the convention floor in Charlotte, N.C., waved blue signs that read “Forward” as the president delivered his roughly 39-minute speech.

Afterward, several of the state’s most powerful Democrats heaped praise upon president Obama, saying the speech – and the whole convention – were successful.

“I've been to a lot of conventions. This really was the best convention I've ever seen in every way," said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who represents Chicago’s northern suburbs in the U.S. House.

“I remember the days when pundits would say, ‘If you are a supporter of Barack Obama, you are a minority of a minority,’” said Chicago Ald. Will Burns, who has had a long relationship with the president. “Doors slammed in your face and people handing you back literature and he never gave up hope and what his vision was for this country.”

But even some of the president’s most ardent supporters said there’s still a hard road ahead for Democrats as the 2012 elections kick into high gear now that both Democrats and Republicans have wrapped up their national conventions.

“I’m gonna go home with the idea that we’ve got to fight like hell in order to win this election for Barack Obama, and to bring this country back to the economic stability that it is entitled to,” said delegate Jim Montgomery, a Chicago lawyer who lives down the street from the first family’s Hyde Park home.

While many of Illinois’ top Democrats and Republicans acknowledge the president will likely win his home state, both state parties have devoted a lot of time during their national conventions over the last two weeks discussing how to win a handful of competitive Illinois Congressional races and seats in the General Assembly.

The president mentioned his adopted home state only once during his speech, when talking about the start of his political career as a state senator from Chicago.

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin introduced the president Thursday night by recounting his own close relationship to Mr. Obama. He recalled how he helped launch the then-U.S. Senate candidate to national prominence by introducing Obama at the 2004 DNC in Boston.

“He had a name that was hard to pronounce and Loretta [Durbin] and Michelle [Obama] and I stood on the side of the stage in Boston and wondered if you would accept his message about the future of this party, and you did,” Durbin said.

“Four years ago in Denver, I asked you to give him our party’s nomination for president. And tonight in Charlotte, I ask you to join me in giving President Barack Obama four more years to finish the job he started.”