Ground game rules.

By Scott Fornek and Lynn Sweet

The battle to replace Rep. Henry Hyde, one of the most closely watched in the nation, is down to a massive war on the airwaves and intense get-out-the-vote drives.

“It’s now the ground game,” Democrat Tammy Duckworth said Sunday.

“This is where the ground game pays off,” said GOP rival Peter Roskam.

It’s rare agreement in what has been a brutal race in the west and northwest suburban 6th Congressional District that combined will cost more than $10 million, with most of the money spent on television ads. Polls — public and those conducted for the campaigns — show it’s a tossup.

“All of the experts say that this race will be won or lost by 2,000 votes — 1 or 2 percent. That’s all it’s going to be,” Duckworth said.

Durbin, Obama lend a hand

Over the weekend, in three of the most competitive U.S. House races, the contenders focused on turning out votes on Tuesday.

Today, the two Illinois senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, blitz for Democrats in the biggest House races in northern Illinois: those involving Duckworth, Rep. Melissa Bean and Dan Seals.

Durbin and Obama will appear at rallies in Waukegan, Grayslake and Elmhurst.

“It will help gin up excitement to help turn out the vote,” Seals said.

The wildly popular Obama comes off a national swing of stumping for other Democrats. But the campaign events may also be marked by questions about Obama’s real estate deal with indicted political fund-raiser Tony Rezko, since these are his first local appearances since the story broke last week.

Roskam and Republican David McSweeney, Bean’s suburban 8th Congressional District challenger, both have news conferences today to counter the expected crush of attention Durbin and Obama will attract.

‘Brutal’ ads

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican who is facing an unexpectedly strong multimillion-dollar challenge from Seals in the north suburban 10th Congressional District, is taking a different tack. Running ahead, Kirk is mainly trying to run out the clock and let his paid ads do his messaging.

Sunday morning, both Kirk and Seals did retail campaigning in Waukegan — Kirk among Mexican Americans and Seals stopping by several black churches.

In the afternoon, they were looking for voters in the Cook County portion of the district.

Duckworth almost lost her March primary because of a weak field operation, and her campaign for months has focused on turning out the vote in an area represented by a Republican for the last 32 years.

At a plasterers and cement masons union hall in Villa Park, Duckworth told more than two dozen volunteers that they are the key to overcoming the TV ads Republicans have been running against her.

“The ccials are brutal,” she said. “They’re terrible.”

Teen daughter helps out

Walking precincts in nearby Lombard with his 13-year-old daughter Frankie, Roskam said it’s now all about getting out the vote.

“Every vote’s going to come down to it in this campaign,” he told Andy and Sandy Kranenborg, an engineer and homemaker, as he handed them a flier on their doorstep.

Democrats may be poised to reclaim the House for the first time since 1994. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the boss of the House Democratic political operation, declined to predict victory Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Said Emanuel, “I’m confident that we … are playing offense across this country in every region of this country.”

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