WH: No Endorsement in Illinois Senate Race, Despite Personal Meeting with Madigan

Jun 18, 2009 6:31pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Despite recently having Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan over to the White House for a meeting with President Obama, the White House says they are taking no sides in the upcoming Illinois Senate race.

Last Friday Madigan, who has yet to formally get into the race, sat down with the President, in addition to fellow Chicagoans Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

Despite this personal attention, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that the White House will not make an endorsement in the race.

“The president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race,” Gibbs said, yet in the same breath went on to praise Madigan, “(the) president has a very long relationship with the attorney general dating back to their time in the state senate and has enormous respect for what she accomplished there and has as attorney general and think she'd be a terrific candidate.”

Not outright disputing the notion that the meeting had been called to help convince Madigan to run, Gibbs rather pled ignorance on who prompted the meeting, “I don't know whether she got called in or she came in.”

Gibbs said that no one in the White House – from the President on down – would be making an endorsement.

“The staff assistants aren't going to pick a candidate.  The assistants to the president aren't going to pick a candidate.  And the president's not going to pick a candidate.”

Despite this, Gibbs said that the President “enjoyed” meeting with Madigan. He did not know if other potential candidates were invited to the White House in similar form and extended something far from a formal invitation.

“If people want to meet, the address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Gibbs quipped.

Poking fun at Gibbs’ explanation, Jake Tapper asked about a more awkward situation with the White House involvement in another contentions Senate race, in NY.

“Does the President think that Carolyn Maloney is a terrific candidate?” Tapper asked today,

The White House has gotten into the fray behind-the-scenes in the NY race where Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will defend the seat she was appointed to after Hillary Clinton accepted the Secretary of State job. Gillibrand is having to defend against competition from her own party, including Rep Carolyn Maloney, who Vice President Biden recently called in an attempt to convince her to take a pass on the race.

Gibbs didn’t answer and his deputy press secretaries laughed.

“Why don’t you think Carolyn Maloney is a terrific candidate?”  Tapper asked again, prompting more laughter.

-Sunlen Miller

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