If you ever wondered what Illinois and Iran might have in common, here’s one answer: President Obama is most definitely not picking sides in their elections.
 
So insists the White House.
 
OBAMA/“Our response … on this has been, from the very beginning, consistent,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a briefing Thursday when asked about the post-election turmoil in Iran.
 
“The American people and this government are not going to pick the next leader of Iran,” he said. “That’s something that the Iranians have to do.”
 
That doesn’t mean they won’t tsk-tsk loudly from the sidelines as the opportunity permits.
 
The administration has voiced concern about how the election was conducted, but shied away from suggesting any fraud was involved in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defeat of challenger Mirhossein Mousavi.
 
They say they don’t favor either candidate, but insist the challenger’s supporters have a right to continue their protests a week after the vote.
 
“We have to ensure that we express our views, as I’ve said, about ensuring that people can demonstrate, have their causes and concerns heard,” the White House spokesman said.
 
Obama’s also steering clear of the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, Gibbs said, even though he met last Friday with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
 
Chicago papers say the Obama administration is pushing her to run for the president’s former U.S. Senate seat in 2010, but the White House begs to differ.
 
“Let me be explicit,” Gibbs said. “The president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race.”
 
And the meeting at the White House with Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser Valerie Jarret? Why, Madigan and Obama are just old friends and Obama has “enormous respect for what she accomplished,” Gibbs said.
 
And oh, by the way …
 
“I think she’d be a terrific candidate. But we’re not going to get involved in picking that candidate in Illinois.”
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama speaks at a fundraiser Thursday night)