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2. Dick Durbin

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2010/03/durbin-480x320.jpgSen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (James Berglie/ZUMA Press)

Durbin wields considerable power in the Senate as majority whip, the second-highest leadership post in the Senate. And his ties to the president extend beyond that formal role. Obama and Durbin are linked by their home state connection, having both represented Illinois in the Senate.

Yeas: Durbin grew up in East St. Louis with a father who worked as a railroad night watchman and a mother who worked as a switchboard operator. His father died when Durbin was just 14 and Durbin helped support the family, in part, by working at a meatpacking plant while attending high school. Durbin is well-known on the Hill for his penchant for colloquialisms, a characteristic that contributes to his populist image. A leader on crafting the current jobs bill, his contempt for corporate power is well-documented in his public statements, including one that continues to be quoted during economic debates: “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place,” Durbin said last April.

Nays: Durbin may hold the power in the Senate, but he hardly possesses a strong national profile. In his home state, he’s been overshadowed by other political leaders, from the celebrity (Barack Obama) to the infamous (Rod Blagojevich.) Plus, despite the political power he does possess, Durbin has disappointed some progressives who believe the senator could be doing more to advance their causes.

Update: Corrects to say Durbin was raised in East St. Louis.

Next: 1. Brian Schweitzer

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