News this morning that one of the three leading contenders for the Democratic nomination in the special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., Toi Hutchinson, has dropped out of the race and endorsed Machine-pick Robin Kelly.

This may or may not be related to news recently surfacing that Toi paid her mother a large sum to be her “political consultant,” a setup remarkably reminiscent of the one Jesse Jackson, Jr., had with his wife. As you know, JJJ and his wife’s plea deals with the federal government were released Friday just as President Obama took the lectern at a local Chicago high school.

Toi Hutchinson was one of the presumed top three candidates in the Democratic race who, along with Robin Kelly, has been AWOL from the campaign trail even as they both raked in donations. Mayor Bloomberg’s Super PAC, which has spent nearly $2m attacking Democrat Debbie Halvorson during the race, had recently turned its sites onto Hutchinson.

And now, a few days later, Hutchinson has dropped out. After supporting Halvorson in the past, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has now endorsed Kelly. Anti-gun maven of Chicago Toni Preckwinkle announced her support for Kelly today as well, after initially backing Hutchinson.

Nine days until the primary election on February 26.

Nine days to see if the Democratic Machine will overcome the general competence, respectability, and moderate nature of candidate Debbie Halvorson to insert the Axelrod/Daily Kos/Chicago Tribune/Mayor Bloomberg pick Robin Kelly.

And nine days to see if the Republican establishment can stop sitting on their thumbs and join the grassroots to support Paul McKinley, the only man who has a chance to defeat the Democratic nominee.