Illinois Primary Preview: Democratic Candidates Go Toe-to-Toe in Obama's Home State

Clinton and Sanders vie for votes ahead of the Illinois primary on Tuesday.

Both candidates’ decision to be in Illinois -- one of five states voting on Tuesday -- highlights the importance of the state at this point in the contest.

Both Clinton and Sanders have connections to the state.

“I feel particularly emotional ... I am a child of Chicago and the suburbs. I was born in Chicago; I grew up in Park Ridge,” Clinton told a large crowd that showed up to see her at a recent campaign event in the Chicago suburbs.

Although Sanders was born in Brooklyn, he too says he first “became involved in the fight for social and racial justice” in Illinois, specifically while he was a student at the University of Chicago. In ads and on the road, Sanders and his campaign have reminded audiences in the state that he was arrested fighting against housing segregation in Chicago in the 1960s.

Sanders knows that winning the state would be huge for him, not only in terms of delegates, but maybe more importantly, for momentum and meaning. Speaking to a Sanders’ crowd this week, one of his backers, former head of the NAACP Ben Jealous, argued Chicago was a direct link between Obama and Sanders.

“I was reminded that Bernie Sanders is another organizer who cut his teeth in Chicago,” Jealous said. “Why don’t we send one more organizer who cut his teeth in Chicago back to the White House?”

Meanwhile, as part of Sanders' strategy, the Vermont senator's former Iowa State Director Robert Becker has been camped out in Illinois since he lead the senator’s campaign to victory in Michigan last week. And the campaign this week released a powerful, documentary-style web ad about a Chicago teacher who was moved by the photos of Sanders’ arrest in his hometown. The ad went viral and has almost 3 million views on Sanders’ Facebook page.

Take two minutes and watch this video on why Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago school principal, supports our campaign for president.

Emanuel, who is widely unpopular in the city as a result of racial tensions and school budget issues, endorsed Clinton before she even announced her run for the presidency, and Sanders has urged Clinton to reject his support. Clinton has not done so, however, and now finds herself in a tricky situation. While she has not disavowed him, she’s notably not highlighting her ties to him -- or campaigning alongside him -- either.