Clinton, Sanders battle for Illinois down to the wire

  • Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pushing their Illinois campaigns to the final hours.

    Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pushing their Illinois campaigns to the final hours.

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives to speak Monday at a union hall in Chicago.

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives to speak Monday at a union hall in Chicago. Associated Press

and Mary Hansen
Updated 3/14/2016 9:38 PM

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made Chicago stops Monday with less than 24 hours before Illinois polls opened in a mad-dash hunt for votes, sending a clear signal from both campaigns that the state is a priority for a win.

Victory here could be a boost for either of the Democrats, allowing Clinton to expand on her convention delegate lead or providing Sanders with the additional fuel his campaign needs to push on and a big blow to the former secretary of state where she was born and raised.


Clinton stopped at a Chicago union hall Monday morning, name-checking her birth state and its importance in an eleventh-hour push ahead of Tuesday's primary election.

"Please do everything you can in the next 24-plus hours so that we come out of these elections tomorrow with the wind at our backs," Clinton told the crowd.

But Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' energetic campaign scheduled a 10:30 p.m. campaign in Chicago, too, continuing his push for Illinois into the final hours before polls open.

The line to get into the rally was long, winding down Chicago sidewalks as chants occasionally broke out. Several standing in line were happy to hear Sanders' criticisms of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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"I love that he has the guts to say stuff like that," Liliana Calderon of Chicago said.

Christian Picciolini, a Chicago resident, protested Trump's appearance at University of Illinois Chicago on Friday. He said he finds Trump's rhetoric "despicable" and he'll be voting for Sanders.

"I want a president who is a good person," he said. "I want a president who really cares about people."

Clinton's morning rally was heavy on digs at the Republican candidates with whom Democrats clearly split on the issues.

But it's Sanders whom Clinton will face in Tuesday's primary.

"Bernie Sanders is the way," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was backed by Sanders in Vermont back in his own 1988 presidential campaign. "He has been in the fight. He knows the struggles."

Sanders handed Clinton a big loss in Michigan one week ago despite a bevy of polls that suggested otherwise, perhaps putting both campaigns on alert here.


"People are obviously paying more attention because of what happened in Michigan," said Mackenzie Madsen, a Chicago interior designer and Clinton fan who said she grew up on the same block as Clinton in Park Ridge, though decades later.

Clinton holds a significant convention delegate lead nationwide and the backing of most of Illinois' party-leader superdelegates. Illinois will elect 102 delegates, which will be awarded proportionally based on how a candidate does in each district.

Clinton was introduced in part by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield, a powerful national Democrat whose early backing of President Barack Obama more than eight years ago helped put him on a track to beat Clinton in the 2008 primary.

A win here would help Clinton get past that 2008 defeat and earn a bid for the White House in November. This year, much of the local establishment Democrats have aligned behind her.

"I believe that she's a progressive," Donna Conrad, a Villa Park resident, said about Clinton. "I believe that she's been a progressive since she was a young girl at her university."

But Sanders might look to get a boost in a year when voters have shown a penchant for upsetting the political establishment.

"Hillary Clinton, she's the machine. I want something fresh. I want someone I can relate to more, I can't relate to her," said Jesse Valenciana, a Chicago resident waiting to get into the Sanders rally.

"Let me be as clear as I can be," Sanders said at a rally over the weekend. "Based on his disastrous record as mayor of the city of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement."

By taking on the politically troubled Emanuel, Sanders may benefit off the mayor's popularity problems among some Chicagoans.

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was in Glen Ellyn today. And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich focused on their home states, which also have primaries Tuesday.

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