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Will Chicago Have Clout in an Obama White House?

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 12, 2008 3:00PM

While Obama was busy winning Mississippi last night, Crain's Chicago Business was busy wondering what an Obama presidency might mean for Chicago.

2008_3_obama.jpg"The person who's president is going to take care of his home state," former Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Gary LaPaille told Crain's. Olympic dreams, funding for capital projects, the economic well-being of local businesses and the future of corruption-buster US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald are all on the list of local issues that could get more (or less) play if Obama takes the nomination and wins the general election in November.

Caterpillar CEO James Owens warned that if a Democratic president tried to reign in free-trade agreements, it could jeopardize sales and growth opportunities for the Peoria-based manufacturer of heavy-duty construction and mining equipment. “We have an opportunity to do some pretty spectacular things in the next few years,” Owens told Wall Street analysts at a construction industry trade show this week. Owens predicted yesterday that sales and revenue will approach $60 billion by 2010. The biggest threat he sees to that growth is restricting global trade policies. “If they did what they’ve talked about in the primaries, it would be cataclysmically bad for the U.S. economy and the global economy,” Owens said. “That’s my biggest worry right now.”

An Obama presidency could also mean a boost for the city's 2016 Olympic bid. "Given Obama's celebrity, the star quality he seems to have, it could make a difference," said Ed Hula, an Olympics watcher who runs Around the Rings. Mayor Daley's brother Bill said that turning down Chicago's bid would be pretty hard to do with Obama in the White House, but also acknowledged that his influence would be limited to projects that stand on their own merits.

As far as federal personnel changes go, Obama's star power in Illinois has already been felt in the 14th Congressional district, where he endorsed Bill Foster. An Obama candidacy will make it difficult for GOP candidates to hold onto tough districts in the fall, including Mark Kirk, Peter Roskam and the open seat created by Jerry Weller's retirement.

One thing that seems unlikely to change regardless of who lives in the White House next year is Patrick Fitzgerald. All three candidates have pledged to keep him in office, although a Democrat may be persuaded to promote Fitzgerald to a job in DC, getting him off the backs of Illinois Democrats that are being investigated as part of his wide-ranging corruption probe.

Image via Barack Obama