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Who Benefits From Brown Victory? Rep. Kirk

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Blake D. Dvorak

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I'll use this Illinois Review post quoting state GOP chairman Pat Brady as a kickoff:

"The split ... I don't really accept the premise [that the ILGOP is divided]," Brady said. "The 'Dump Kirk' movement is a fringe movement. There's not one candidate that's pulled above 5 percent except Mark Kirk. So if there's a split, it's sure not  a strong <unintelligible> of people saying they're not going to come out and vote. Mark Kirk has a substantial lead, and none of these guys are pulling more than five percent. So, I agree, it's bad if we're not unified, but this year, what we're seeing is a very unified Republican Party."
Let's travel back to early summer 2008, when Hillary Clinton conceded to Barack Obama in the primary. Hillary voters were furious, not just at Obama but also at the Democratic Establishment, which they thought had ill-treated their candidate. They threatened to vote for John McCain.

They were loud enough to earn a few second-looks in the media and among the punditry class: What if Obama loses Hillary voters, particularly women? It was a thin reed for Republicans to rest their hopes, but some did indeed hope for that.

Of course nothing of the sort happened. The Hillary voters came home.

So now let's look at Republican Senate race. There is not an insignificant number of conservative voters who will not vote for Kirk in the primary, due to things like cap-and-trade. If Kirk wins anyway, as he probably will, the news will be full of commentary on how Kirk needs to win over these voters while at the same time appeal to the independent base. If the base stays home, they'll write, then Kirk's shot of winning Obama's old seat will be over.

Not to rain on the parade, but nothing of the sort will happen. Those conservatives who loath Kirk now will come home, precisely because of what happened last night in Massachusetts. Winning brings its own momentum, and, whatever their disagreements with Kirk, conservatives will want Obama's old seat. Massachusetts has shown that it is indeed up for grabs.

At the same time, you can't bet on some of the unique features of the Massachusetts race showing up in Illinois: Health care will probably be dead, the Democratic nominee will -- has to -- be better than Martha Coakley, and the Democratic Establishment won't be caught off guard. Money will be pouring into this race. Republicans will need a strong candidate with widespread support, both in the electorate and among the GOP establishment. 

In the months after the primary, assuming Kirk wins, he'll do the rounds with local conservative groups to show that he's not taking them for granted, as he ought to. But, spoken or implied, he'll also ask them a powerful question: Would you rather let a Democrat win?

And that's the same question conservatives will ask themselves in the voting booth on Election Day.

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1 Comment

unclemiltie said:

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good analysis, especially the point about the right being highly motivated to win Obama's old seat

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