(CNN) – President Barack Obama is helping out the man who's hoping to keep Obama's old Senate seat in Democratic hands.
The president headlines a fundraiser Thursday afternoon in Chicago for Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic nominee for Senate. Giannoulias faces off in November against five-term Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, in a race that recent polls indicate is all tied up.
Giannoulias has seen his bid for the Senate rocked by the controversy over his family's bank, which was taken over by federal regulators earlier this year. Prior to his statewide election victory in 2006, Giannoulias worked at his family's Broadway Bank. Republicans have had a field day attacking the Democratic nominee over the bank, including questioning what they call loans to "unsavory characters and convicted felons."
Kirk had his own problems. This spring he apologized for mischaracterizing portions of his 21-year military career, and the Pentagon confirmed that the candidate was counseled by the military twice in the last two years for violating rules that bar members of the armed services from partisan political activities. He also ran into trouble for embellishing his experience as a teacher.
Although he is a basketball playing buddy of the president, Giannoulias apparently wasn't the candidate the White House hoped would win February's primary in Illinois. The White House tried to persuade Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to make a bid for the open Senate seat, but she declined to run.
Over the last few months the White House has stepped up it's help for the campaign.
In June Vice President Joe Biden was the main attraction at a Giannoulias fundraiser in Chicago. White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod and Democratic strategist David Plouffe, who managed Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, have also helped the Senate nominee raise money this summer.
The seat is currently held by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris, who is not running for a full term this year. Burris was named to the office by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was ousted from office for among other things, allegedly trying to sell Obama's vacant seat.
While the Senate race is close in the polls, Kirk leads Giannoulias by nearly a four to one margin when it comes to campaign cash in the bank. The Giannoulias campaign says Thursday's fundraiser with the president is now oversold, but won't confirm reports that it even could bring in around $1 milliion.
Later Thursday, the president headlines two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee. A source at the DNC says he two events, the first at the Chicago Cultural Center and the second at a private residence, are expected to bring in around $1.5 million for the party committee.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn