Dead Girl, Live Boy, Failed Bank: Alex Giannoulias Makes His Play

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The Illinois Senate race is playing out like an academic case study in crises management. Imagine this: Your client, a former chief loan officer for a local bank, is a Democrat heading into a Republican election year, in a state long stained by political corruption. Amid enormous public outrage over the damage wrought by bank excess, your client’s bank is seized by the Feds for having overextended itself in the mortgage market. Now figure out how to win the race.

Campaign advisers to Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat running for Barack Obama’s old Senate seat this year, now face exactly this challenge. Giannoulias’s family business, Broadway Bank, has just been seized. The FDIC estimates that “the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be $394.3 million.” In 2006, Giannoulias ran for state Treasurer with campaign ads that described the candidate as a “financial expert, businessman, banker.” “Let’s get somewhere in there who has protected people’s money,” Giannoulias told voters. (Watch the video here.) Eric Adelstein, the candidate’s current media strategist, has described the current turn of events as “surreal.” So how should the campaign respond?

As Adam notes below, Giannoulias released a new ad today that embraced the bank–sort of. The idea is to recast Giannoulias’s family’s failed bank as a mom-and-pop victim, that fell apart after the son had already left. “No one could have foreseen these problems,” the candidate says, echoing the line of other big bankers. Here it is:


There is an old line in politics, often attributed to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards: “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” So what about a failed bank? The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Giannoulias basically tied now with his Republican opponent, Mark Kirk. To borrow a phrase, no one can foresee what will happen next.