Durbin says Obama has tough fight ahead

Eric Fodor

Sen. Dick Durbin last night talked about one of his favorite subjects -- the candidacy of his partner in the senate, Barack Obama.

Durbin was in Gallatin County to tour the Wellness Center and Dental Clinic. He had several stops in Southern Illinois this week during the August break of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

"You can breathe easier because the Senate is not in session this August," Durbin said before the tour.

Durbin recalled visiting Southern Illinois with Obama in April 2004, just after Obama won the Democrat primary for Senate. Obama didn't do so well in Southern Illinois, which mostly went for Dan Hynes. Durbin took Obama through Southern Illinois to introduce himself and meet people just as his star was beginning to rise. Among other appearances in Southern Illinois, the two stopped at Southeastern Illinois College in April 2004.

A couple years later -- after two years in the Senate and a well-received speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Durbin counseled Obama to run for president, he said.

"Sometimes you pick your time and sometimes it picks you," Durbin said.

Despite a formidable candidacy by Hillary Clinton looming in the primary, Durbin believed the times had picked Obama, he said.

Durbin cautioned Democrat loyalists there are still hurdles to overcome and the election is far from a foregone conclusion. The election could take a nastier turn at any minute and many potential Obama voters still have reservations.

"Anyone who thinks we've got this won because George W. Bush was such a bad president, better think again," Durbin said.

Durbin said he has the utmost respect for Sen. John McCain and no one can question McCain's love of country, but at the same time compared the Arizona senator to Bush when it comes to public policy.

"John McCain believes in Bush's economic policies. I don't," Durbin said.

Durbin said the bulk of tax breaks during the Bush years went to the wealthiest, not the people who need them most. America is built from the bottom up, not the top down, he said.

Durbin called for bringing the troops home from Iraq. The soldiers deployed to Iraq have done well, "And they should be welcomed home as the heroes they are," he said. But with 4,000 American dead, many more injured and $1 trillion spent, it is time for the Iraqis to stabilize their own nation.

"The Iraqis have got to make a decision -- whether their country is worth fighting for," Durbin said.

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