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Republicans Thu Jul 09 2009
Poor Mark Kirk (R-IL10). Conservatives aren't crazy about him, considering a defector on cap-and-trade and coloring him as a Democrat-lite--or worse, a "coward". But Democrats aren't exactly fond of him, as Progress Illinois argues, he's "no moderate". So which is it?
The open primary system makes the life of a moderate difficult, if not impossible. And given that Illinois' Republican Party has shrunk, particularly in the interior Chicagoland suburbs, it means that the more ideologically committed Republicans--the more conservative ones--are disproportionately (to the population) represented in the primary electorate. That's not necessarily bad; a primary isn't meant to get the temperature of the population, it's meant to get the temperature of the party. If the party's temperature is further right (or left) than that of the population, so be it. On the one hand, Kirk would probably be Republicans' best shot at taking the Senate seat; Kirk has a good reputation in his district for constituent services, and while he's no progressive he's no reactionary and probably in line ideologically with lots of Illinoisans. On the other hand, he would be instantly alienated by his party's conservative activist base, particularly the strong abortion activist organizations in the collar counties and central and downstate Illinois county organizations that may not be willing to ignore his carbon
cap'n trade cap-and-trade vote and friendly posture to GLBT issues.
Pragmatically speaking, he's been raising federal money, which will give him an edge; and he will have instant credibility with the Republican establishment nationwide (if not their grass and netroots) and with the wealthy GOP givers in his affluent north shore and suburban district. The Illinois GOP should be focusing on capitalizing on the chaos in Springfield to take the Governor's office back; resources allocated to Kirk are resources that can be better used (what is a GOP Senator from Illinois going to accomplish in Washington, though it would be a psychological blow for Democrats.)
And GOP primaries are rough. If Kirk goes right, particularly if he's forced to constantly slam President Obama in his literature, debates, and in responses to hits from activists and opponents, it'll compromise his viability in the interior Chicagoland suburbs and some downstate population centers.
While I disagree with him on basically everything, I have to say I like Mark Kirk. He's a typical bourgeois politician; but he seems sincere, anyway. What some call his cowardice may just be his intellectual honesty. (Paul Kroenke would disagree). While I think he'd have a difficult road to beat any serious Democratic opponent (i.e., anybody but Roland Burris), he'd probably go down in noble defeat. It's the GOP primary where he'd likely get savaged (Cf. above, "coward"), and that'd be a shame.