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Durbin plays coy on re-election talk

CHARLOTTE NC - SEPTEMBER 06:  U.S. Sen. Dick Durb(D-IL) (L) stands podium with stage manager David Cove for walkthrough

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) (L) stands at the podium with stage manager David Cove for a walkthrough during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Updated: October 9, 2012 2:53PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Dick Durbin, the second most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate, on Thursday would not commit to whether he would seek re-election, leaving unfinished one of the state Democratic Party’s big storylines heading into the 2014 elections.

Durbin, who was tapped to introduce President Barack Obama Thursday on the biggest night of the Democratic National Convention, said he would wait until next year before he decided whether to seek a fourth term as the state’s senior U.S. senator.

Durbin, who turns 68 this fall, offered a non-committal answer to reporters on Thursday after an Illinois delegation breakfast at the convention.

A factor in the decision whether to run again is whether Democrats retain control of the Senate, though he described that consideration as “secondary” when compared to the input his family offers.

“You take a look at it, and you try to measure things in terms of yourself. You know, do you still have it? Is that fire still in your belly? Do you really want to get up and do this?” Durbin, who would be 76 after a fifth term, said. “In the Senate, it’s not a two-year decision like in the House. It’s an eight-year decision: It’s a two-year campaign and a six-year term. Are you ready to engage and commit for eight years of your life?”

The Springfield Democrat will know by next year whether Obama wins a second term and whether Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate, where he has risen to become the second-highest-ranking Democrat behind only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.).

If Durbin were to pull the plug on a political career that began with a 1982 run for Congress and never has included a loss, he would set off a power vacuum within his own party that could have implications for people such as Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who long has been mentioned as a potential U.S. Senate candidate.

Republicans also are eagerly eyeing Durbin’s plans with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam and other Illinois Republicans possibly in play for that post should it open up. Schock also is drawing interest as a potential 2014 gubernatorial candidate.

Having shaken off a health scare and recently losing 20 pounds with a diet and exercise regimen, a healthy-looking Durbin said his decision will begin “first and foremost” with a discussion with wife, Loretta, and their family.

“That’s where the conversation starts, and it’s where it should start. I’ve been lucky enough to serve, been lucky enough to reach an important part of leadership in the Senate, and what a great state to serve. But my juices are flowing. I love this business, and I love this state, and I’ll match my schedule with any elected official in our state,” Durbin said.

“I cover it from one end to the other every time I get home. I draw energy from it. It really inspires me,” he said.

He underwent surgery in 2010 to remove a non-cancerous tumor and insisted Thursday is in good health to mount another run should he decide to.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson — the only member of the politically powerful Jackson dynasty attending convention — offered an unlikely characterization of Illinois.

“Illinois is a swing state,” Jackson said in a morning address to the Illinois delegation. “We lost the Senate race in 2010. Illinois is a swing state too. Don’t take Illinois for granted. Too many unregistered voters. Don’t take Illinois for granted.”

In 2010, Republican Mark Kirk won the seat that once belonged to Obama.

Congressional Democrats this week have said, however, that Illinois could be poised to not only carry Obama, but, with the help of a remap tilted toward Democrats, could pick up five more seats in the U.S. House.

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