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Sweet: Sanders’ final Illinois push: Election eve Chicago rally

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders will return to Chicago on Monday for a late-night election eve rally. | Seth Perlman/AP

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Bernie Sanders returns to Chicago on Monday for a late-night election eve rally — stumping in the city a few hours after Hillary Clinton — trying to do what was once seen as impossible: Beating her in home-state Illinois.

Even if Sanders pulls an Illinois upset in the popular vote, Clinton is still poised to do well in getting the lion’s share of Illinois delegates — and that’s what counts in winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

On the Republican side, Ted Cruz has Illinois to himself on Monday, and he plans a five-city fly-around in his hunt for delegates, hitting west suburban Glen Ellyn, Rockford, Peoria, Decatur and Springfield — most of the major Illinois media markets. Downstate Illinois could be fertile ground for Cruz-friendly evangelical GOP voters.

There’s a lot going on as the campaign wraps, with a surge of last-minute attention on Illinois — part of it from the uproar over Donald Trump’s canceled rally on Friday.

Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Missouri and North Carolina vote on Tuesday.

OPINION

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SANDERS, CLINTON ON MONDAY

After stops in Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina, Sanders plans a finale at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, with the doors opening at 8:30 p.m.

With an early start in Chicago before she heads to Florida and North Carolina, Clinton will be spending a big chunk of the day here, with the main event at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington.

SUNDAY

Clinton needs to win an extraordinary high number of African-American votes to clinch Illinois, and on Sunday, former President Bill Clinton pitched his wife at two black churches: St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in the South Shore neighborhood and Rock of Ages Baptist Church in west suburban Maywood.

In Maywood, where he was introduced by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Bill Clinton invoked the police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore and the slaughter in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

RELATED: Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary Sunday; Sanders up in new polls

At St. Luke, Bill Clinton called his wife a “change-maker,” and alluding to Trump said, “She thinks instead of building walls, we should build ladders, tear down barriers.

Sanders was in Chicago on Friday and Saturday and comes back as he is going after Hillary Clinton by attacking the unpopular Mayor Rahm Emanuel — whose critics are the driving force in the Vermont senator’s campaign here. The politically toxic Emanuel, who early on endorsed Clinton, has kept his distance from her campaign.

The Clinton campaign sent a team of high-profile surrogates to fan out across the Chicago area, hitting in all about two dozen black churches.

I asked Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who introduced Bill Clinton at St. Luke, if Clinton could be the collateral damage because of Emanuel.

“Hopefully,” Kelly said, “people will look at her for her.”

Meanwhile, Trump brought his campaign to an airplane hangar in downstate Bloomington.

The Associated Press reported less than 30 people were removed from the hangar, with a crowd of about 3,000. “See? Nobody gets hurt,” Trump said.

Trump accused Sanders — and later Clinton — of organizing protesters at a Friday night rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion that he canceled.

At a CNN town hall on Sunday night from Columbus, Ohio, both Clinton and Sanders accused Trump of inciting violence because of his scorched rhetoric. They also blasted him for offering to pay the legal bills of a man who sucker-punched a protester who was being led out.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll gives Hillary Clinton only a narrow Illinois lead — 51 percent to 45 percent — while a CBS News survey gives Sanders the lead with 48 percent to 46 percent for Clinton.

David Axelrod, the political strategist, former Obama top adviser and founder of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago said, “I think momentum is generally indicative of where the race is going. It rarely reverses.”

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