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Obama pushes for collaboration in Springfield

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President Barack Obama addresses the Illinois General Assembly, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Obama returned to Springfield, the place where his presidential career began, to mark the ninth anniversary of his entrance in the 2008 presidential race. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama addresses the Illinois General Assembly, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Obama returned to Springfield, the place where his presidential career began, to mark the ninth anniversary of his entrance in the 2008 presidential race. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama’s speech to Illinois legislators, including some former colleagues, left them starry-eyed and receptive to his message Wednesday about changing the rancorous tone of politics to one that’s more collaborative and less combative.

But as the state enters its eighth month without a budget, it remains to be seen whether they will act on the president’s words about building a better political environment.

In a day trip to the state capital where he began his career and also launched his presidential bid, Obama fretted over the harsh tone and hardening partisanship he says is turning off voters. He waxed nostalgic about the chummier relations and bipartisan deal-making of his youth. He appealed to state lawmakers, and the public, to rid politics of “polarization and meanness” that discourage widespread participation in civic life.

“It’s gotten worse,” he said bluntly in an address to the Illinois General Assembly on the anniversary of his entry into presidential politics.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his fellow Republicans are deadlocked in a battle with Democrats who control the legislature over how to proceed.

Obama harkened to his experiences as a state senator — where he served for eight years — to tell lawmakers that his time in Springfield taught him to forge compromises.

He spoke fondly of getting to know his colleagues in Springfield over fish fries and poker games, an aspect of political life in Washington that has all but disappeared as House and Senate lawmakers rush out of town on weekends to spend time with family back home.

“I was truly honored to be in the chamber today,” said Republican House Leader Jim Durkin. “Politics aside, a sitting president, one who came from our humble chambers and was able to talk about his experiences with members of the general assembly, I thought it was great.”

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Obama pushes for collaboration in Springfield