Obama endorses JB Pritzker for Illinois governor

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The race for governor just got a new dose of presidential politics -- This time it's former President Barack Obama weighing in asking people to vote for JB Pritzker.

In his first endorsement video released in this election cycle, Obama makes his pitch for Pritzker, repeating a message often heard from the democratic candidate for governor himself.

It's a video that political observers say will help blunt some of the negative videos released by Governor Bruce Rauner that have painted Pritzker as a friend of convicted former governor Rod Blagojevich and a crony of House Speaker Mike Madigan.

"JB has never held political office, having the endorsement of a very popular former president who looks better and better in comparison to the current president is a major event," said Dick Simpson a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Obama's pitch will resonate with many voters, but perhaps have the most important impact among African Americans, whose vote is critical for Pritzker.

"When you've got Rauner running one negative ad after another, studies show negative ads suppress the Black vote, because Black people just decide 'These people aren't going to change, they aren't going to help me,'" said DelMarie Cobb, a Democratic political strategist.

The Rauner campaign responded by pointing out that Pritzker waffled on supporting Obama when he ran for re-election in 2012. Former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, now a Republican strategist, says endorsements are overrated.

"A guy like President Obama, with Republicans or fiscally-conservative Democrats, that's a motivator for them to get out and vote against the candidate that he supports," Brady said. "And all we've heard from JB so far is he's talking about a tax increase and big government and that's kind of what President Obama represents to a lot of Republicans and fiscally-conservative Democrats."

Brady pointed out that while Obama was president, he personally endorsed Alexi Giannoulias for Senate in 2010, who lost to Mark Kirk. But Obama also made a video endorsement for Pritzker's running mate Julianna Stratton for an Illinois state house seat, and she knocked off Ken Dunkin, who was backed by Rauner at the time.
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