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McCain, Durbin: Clinton is favorite for Democratic presidential nominee

With U.S. Sen. John McCabeing an avid hockey fan U.S. Sen. Richard Durbis happy present Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup puck

With U.S. Sen. John McCain being an avid hockey fan, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin is happy to present a Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup puck to McCain at the City Club of Chicago breakfast Monday at at Maggiano's. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: October 28, 2013 7:45PM

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and John McCain called their former colleague Hillary Clinton the odds-on favorite Monday to seize the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

Durbin (D-Ill.) and McCain (R-Ariz.) put on a show of old-school bipartisan collegiality at a City Club of Chicago breakfast — showering each other with compliments amid bacon and eggs and trading one-liners about hockey, snow birds and even McCain’s failed 2008 presidential campaign against a junior senator from Illinois.

Clinton came to town Monday, as well, to be the guest speaker for the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago’s Vanguard Luncheon. The event was closed to the press, but her visit prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to join Durbin and McCain in naming Clinton the Democratic Party’s front-runner.

“Being a loser, I’m not sure what I have to say would be very impactful,” McCain said when reporters asked him about Clinton’s odds in 2016. He said he wouldn’t count Vice President Joe Biden out of the race, but he said the former First Lady, New York senator and Secretary of State “would be a very strong candidate.”

“I think (Clinton) would be viewed by anyone, Republican or Democrat, as a very formidable candidate for 2016,” McCain said, “and I don’t like to venture, predict, but I think it’s very likely that, she is certainly, has to be viewed as the favorite to be on the Democratic ticket.”

Durbin called Clinton the “odds-on favorite to be the Democratic nominee and, I think, to be elected president if she makes that decision.” But he said there are many uncertanties in presidential politics, and he reminisced about once urging then-Sen. Barack Obama to run for president in 2008.

“So you’re the reason I lost?” McCain quipped.

“Don’t take it personally,” Durbin responded.

In 2008, then Congressman Emanuel famously said he was “hiding under my desk” to avoid taking sides between Clinton and Obama.

There’s no such political quandary in 2016. Emanuel is free to back Clinton — and he will.

“I do believe that, if Hillary runs, she’s not only the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. She’s the frontrunner for being president,” the mayor said.

Durbin and McCain appeared together as they urge the House to pass their immigration reform bill — a topic McCain said the Congress must address sooner or later. “It’s just a matter of when,” he said.

McCain also had tough talk for members of his party who would again shut down the federal government, telling the audience “it was a terrible thing we did to the American people.” He said politicians who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — should “go out and win an election.”

“I campaigned across this country, and here in Illinois, in 2012 saying, ‘If you elect Mitt Romney we will repeal and replace Obamacare,’” McCain said. “The people spoke. The people spoke, and they re-elected President Obama. They maintained a majority of Democrats in the United States Senate. And that is the will of the people. So what these people are trying to do is overturn the electoral process.”

Durbin also said he’s ready to move on from a flap over a Facebook post he made, where he wrote that in a “negotiation” meeting at the White House with Obama, “one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you.’” The White House has denied the comment was uttered.

“Two weeks ago, a staffer in the White House who was present at the meeting told me and several other senators exactly what I said,” Durbin said Monday. “Verbatim. Word for word. I wrote it down, it was so Earth-shattering. And then it was repeated to a number of other senators. In fact, virtually all the Democratic senators.

“That was my source,” Durbin said.

Despite all that, Durbin said he would take the Facebook post down.

Contributing: Fran Spielman


Twitter: @SeidelContent

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