A couple of weeks ago, Illinois Senate Republican candidate Mark Kirk fired up his party loyalists at a private event by casting himself as a champion of his party's teabagger fringe:
"I'm Mark Kirk, and I can't wait to vote against health care reform next week."
But that was enough:
If elected, U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk is promising he will "lead the effort" to repeal the health care reform package Democrats are working furiously to pass. The North Shore Republican made the statement at a New Trier GOP Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner last Friday.
And beyond exuberance at his obstructionist vote on health care, and eagerness to fight for its repeal, he bragged about how GOP obstructionism was hurting Obama:
"We're on the way to making this guy a one-termer."
Now this might play in Kentucky, or Louisiana, or Alabama. But in Illinois?
The problem, of course, wasn't that Kirk said it at the private event, but that someone got it on tape and leaked it to the press. And ever since then, Kirk has been nowhere to be found, refusing to answer the obvious questions about those statements. Kirk knows full well that he's running in Illinois, Land of Obama, and one of the most Democratic states in the union. An agenda of Obama bashing and repeal won't get him far.
Today, Kirk finally spoke on the issue.
Today he spoke about health care with far less bravado.
"I voted against it, but we lost," Kirk said Tuesday. "My job is to explain how this will affect voters."
Boy, not sounding so tough anymore, is he? And while reporters repeatedly asked him if he would "'lead the effort" to repeal the reform law, he refused to directly answer the question. He knew that no matter how he answered, it would do little to help him with voters.
Bottom line, Kirk isn't happy his words leaked out, he's not happy his true agenda has been exposed, he's not happy that Illinois voters have seen the real him. But they have. And no matter how much Kirk may try to make Alexi's family's troubled bank the issue, the bottom line of this race is this: voters will have a choice between a candidate who wants to lead the reform repeal effort and work for the defeat of Barack Obama, and one who is actually on the side of Illinois voters.
Now, while backing away from "repeal" might be smart politics (or at least, less idiotic), this is the GOP we're talking about.
[T]he Club for Growth, the powerful, well-funded conservative group, is ripping into Kirk for his sudden indecision, and making it clear that they expect him to live up to his promise.
“He said that he’s going to do this,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly just said by phone. “We expect him to live up to his pledge.”
Kirk has signed on to the Club’s repeal pledge, which states: “I hereby pledge to the people of my state to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”
“He’s made a promise to the people of Illinois,” Connolly continued. Asked if failing to follow through could cost Kirk the Club’s support in a general election, Connolly said: “We’ll have to see.”
Update: Giannoulias' website is here.