What is Duckworth's future in politics?
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's signature TV ad in her campaign for re-election featured Black Hawk helicopters flying and legislation to help veterans.
"I used to fly to work at 140 mph," she says in the spot.
Being a veteran is a key part of Duckworth's political identity and one that can appeal to independent voters as she pursues politics in the future.
Yet, her own history shows it doesn't make her immune to political defeat, said Brian Gaines, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Duckworth lost her first race to Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican who quickly climbed the congressional leadership ladder after beating her in 2006.
Duckworth won in 2012 and was elected last week to a second term in Congress representing the 8th District, which includes parts of Northwest Cook, Kane and DuPage counties.
Military service frequently is a point of reference for Duckworth. At a speech she gave for Democrats before the Illinois State Fair this summer, Duckworth told of Spc. Kurt Hannemann's heroism in helping to save her life 10 years ago and called companies looking to move their headquarters out of the U.S. for tax purposes "deserters."
"I'm an old soldier at heart and let me tell you, we have a word for people who abandon their nation, who change their allegiance. And there's nothing worse than a deserter," Duckworth said.
At the time, Republican Bruce Rauner was making headlines about his investments in Cayman Islands accounts, heightening the partisan impact of the comments.
The next day, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican and Navy veteran, responded.
"If we use comments like 'deserter' and 'traitor,' that normally those crimes have capital punishment consequences, I would say that that rhetoric is probably too overblown for a country that wants to stick together and hang together," Kirk said.
Some see Duckworth and Kirk as potential rivals for the 2016 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, when Kirk would be up for election to a second term.
Gaines said that's not an obvious choice for Duckworth. Running statewide is tough for anyone, and Duckworth would put her seat in Congress at risk. Still, Kirk took that road when he ran for Senate from the North suburban 10th District in 2010.
Duckworth tried to throw cold water on the idea.
"I am spending as much time as I can discouraging people from talking about it because I'm barely through my first term," she told the Daily Herald Editorial Board last month. "I just get a lot of folks who like to talk. You can be the flavor of the month. There will be a different flavor next month."