Saturday, April 3, 2010

Betting on the Senate campaign in Illinois is for suckers – Kirk is not the invincible man

To listen to the Republican rhetoric these days, some of which I receive directly from the party on a daily basis in my e-mail, Alexi Giannoulias is toast. As are his Democratic Party colleagues on the ballot with him for the Nov. 2 elections.

After all, Giannoulias is involved with a failing bank that did shady business dealings with corrupt people. Most people are going to hear that political trash talk, assume there might be a bit of truth to it, and will not bother to try to find out for themselves what the real story is.

BUT THEN, I listen to Giannoulias’ Republican opponent and realize that the GOP has its own problems, and that anybody who presumes that Democrat-leaning (because it’s so heavily Chicago-dominated) Illinois is going to see a massive electoral turnover is using some seriously illicit narcotics.

At least that is the impression I got after reading the reports that came out of Illinois’ capital city, where Kirk admits that his talk of wanting to repeal the health care reform proposal that is a significant part of President Barack Obama’s legacy is a whole lot of hooey.

Not that Kirk, currently a Congressman from the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, thinks much of the health care proposal. It’s just that he realizes that anyone who seriously uses their time and political clout to push for repeal is wasting their time – while also driving themselves closer to a nervous breakdown.

“We lost, and we don’t have the votes,” Kirk told reporter-types during a recent campaign appearance in Springfield.

ON A CERTAIN level, Kirk deserves to be commended. He was speaking honestly. He was speaking realistically. He was speaking truthfully. Yet that is about the last thing that anybody – particularly the ideological opponents of Barack Obama – wants to hear when it comes to health care reform.

The way that Kirk is going to get the hard-core ideologues whom the Republican Party is counting on to turn out in droves to seize back control of portions of Illinois state government is to continue the poltiical trash talk.

He’s going to have to get people stirred up into a frenzy into thinking that Democrats are the evil spawn created by the merger of Obama and Blagojevich. Kirk being the guy seeking federal office gets to dump on the Obama legacy, while gubernatorial hopeful William Brady and the other GOP candidates focus on Blagojevich.

If they don’t do this, they take the risk of turning off the hard-core elements of the Republican Party, which would depress the voter turnout and make it all the more likely that the hard-core voters of Chicago whom the Democratic Party counts on to be the base of its vote in Illinois will be sufficient to win many elections and keep significant control of Illinois government.

THE PROBLEM FOR Kirk, compared to his Republican colleagues running in many other states, is that Obama remains popular in his home state. While the Gallup Organization on Friday gave Obama a 50 percent “approval” rating (compared to 43 percent “disapprove”), various polls that break their results down by states show that Illinoisans generally support the president with approval ratings anywhere from 56 to 65 percent (depending on whose study one consults).

In short, using the hard-core rhetoric to trash-talk health care is not going to play in Illinois. It will only serve to drive voters away from Kirk, and from the rest of Republican candidates for 2010. Turning this election into a forum on health care reform would only serve to help Giannoulias because it would remind many Chicago-area voters that Kirk is somebody who is counting on political support from people whose interests go counter to so many of our (as in Chicago’s) own.

But if he doesn’t resort to some of the trash-talk (let me concede that every candidate for every political office engages in some trash talk) on health care, he’s also going to turn off his own political base. He has the potential to lose similar to John McCain for president in 2008 – many people may not have wanted an Obama victory, but they didn’t trush McCain to be any better for what they desire out of a public official.

It is why I honestly believe that in the campaign for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois being abandoned by Roland Burris, both candidates have sufficient weaknesses that virtually cancel each other out. It is why I think it is absurd for anyone to say they think they know who will win this particular election.

I CAN VERY easily envision the collective conservative nausea that will occur in January 2011 at the sight of U.S. Sen. Alexi Giannoulias, D-Ill. Then again, I’m not ruling out the possibility that Kirk will succeed in moving “up” from the House of Representatives to the Senate.

But I also think there’s a good chance that the Republican success in Illinois’ elections this year will be limited to smaller Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Illinois House, and the return of Judy Baar Topinka to a political post.

Not that I’m betting any money on that last statement. At this point, only a fool would do so.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Mark Kirk is backing away from his past political rhetoric about repealing the ( health care reform proposal signed into law recently by Barack Obama. Will this help him avoid irritating Obama’s Illinois ( fans, or will it tick off Obama’s Illinois critics?

Alexi Giannoulias is trying to score a few political points (,CST-NWS-kirk02.article) off the fact that Kirk is speaking more realistically these days about the issue of health care.

Where have you gone, Paul Simon? Our state turns its lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? The bow-tie man has left and gone away ( With apologies to Paul Simon, the singer and song-writer, the sentiment of who we’d really like to have as our state’s senator in Washington seems to fit.

No comments: