Poll Shows Big Leads for Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk in Illinois US Senate Race

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk have been campaigning against each other as if they were the only ones running for the U.S. Senate.

A Tribune/WGN-TV poll sheds some light on why: Both have opened up leads ahead of the Feb. 2 primary elections.

The weeks of sniping between Giannoulias, the first-term state treasurer, and Kirk, a five-term North Shore congressman, illustrate the importance of next year's Senate election -- a rare open-seat contest with national implications that is expected to attract a lot of money on both sides.

It's a seat with a famous -- and infamous -- pedigree. President Barack Obama held it. Disgraced ex- Gov. Rod Blagojevich stands accused of trying to sell it. And his beleaguered appointee Roland Burris opted not to run for it.