This makes me think of Illinois politics . . . . because everything brings me back to Illinois politics sooner or later. Here's the thing . . . Illinois has not had quite the streak of Democrat Senators that Massachusettes has . . . . but we're a blue state, no doubt about it. And we happen to be holding an election to replace a liberal icon of our own; if you haven't heard, the seat occupied by Barack Obama before we foisted him off on the rest of you is up for grabs in a contested election. It seems to me that the Illinois campaign should be able to use a lot of what Scott Brown's campaign did well . . . particularly, running against the Obama agenda and tying the Democrat candidate to Obama. To be sure, the Democrats should be a lot more serious in the Illinois race than Coakley was in Massachusettes, but their candidate will probably be Alexi Giannoulias, whose main claim to fame is that he played pro basketball in Europe and now plays pickup one-on-one with Barack Obama. I'm sure his people are weighing options, but I see no way for him to distance himself from Obama. On the other hand, Obama is still hugely popular among Chicago Democrats as far as I know.
Of more interest to me at the moment is the Republican primary set for February 2nd. Does the Scott Brown campaign affect that race? I think it does. How?
Oooh . . . . good question. Here are a few possibilities:
1. Patrick Hughes gets a boost.
Hughes is not the GOP leadership's choice . . . that would be Mark Kirk, a "moderate" candidate from the northern Chicago suburbs. Kirk has great name recognition, especially in Chicago, and polls well against Giannoulias. But Kirk is widely despised by Republican base factions (see below) and so several "conservative" candidates have sprung up to nip at his heels. Patrick Hughes claims to be the best organized and funded, which he may very well be, but he's also derided by the other candidates as a wannabe who never voted in Republican primaries before 2008. However, he's strongly conservative, pro-gun, and in person does a good job of bringing across a Constitution-based political philosophy . . . . and in a time when the former head of the Illinois GOP is running as "the outsider," Hughes undeniably is a real outsider. He's also endorsed by several Tea Party groups. How much does that help? Well, it depends because maybe . . . .
2. Mark Kirk gets a boost.
Here's the thing: the Republican base is none too fond of Mark Kirk. Kirk is a Congressman from a fairly lefty district just outside Chicago. Not to pass judgment, but my college roommate, who couldn't change a tire and was astounded and frightened at his move downstate because "it gets really dark at night down here," was from Kirk's district. The rugged prairie it ain't.
But the GOP leadership in this state loves 'em some Kirk. Sure, he sponsored the 1993 Clinton Assault Weapons Ban (in 2008!) But who hasn't? And, OK, fine, he voted for "Cap and Trade" despite the fact that it slits the throats of all the coal miners in Illinois, but those guys are all in Democrat unions anyway, right? And, hey, he crossed his fingers when he done it, and when he announced for Senate he explained that he was only pandering, so no hard feelings. Everyone at the cocktail parties in Chicago agrees that the downstate hicks should stop shouting "Cap'n Traitor!" at Kirk during parades now that he's promised to pander the other way. And after all, he says he's against the Obama health care bill, and shipping Guantanamo Bay prisoners into Illinois, so the Tea Bag Nuts should probably move on pretty soon, right? And let's face it; if you believe the official "cash on hand" numbers, Kirk has almost seven times as much money to spend as Hughes does.
But how could the Massachusettes Incident benefit Kirk? Well, there are those who say that Scott Brown won because he's a RINO. They say that if he weren't pro-choice and . . . . well, that's pretty much all they've got, but they say he's a moderate and that's how he pulled it out. If the Illinois race follows the trend, that argues for Kirk as the moderate choice who can pull off the upset.
3. Alexi Giannoulias gets a boost.
This sounds a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me. What will be the Democrat reaction to "The Massachusettes Incident"? If they're smart (and some of them are awfully smart) they've already been looking around for other races that could get embarrassing. They should not get caught napping again. Anybody who pulls off an upset against another Democrat candidate this year is going to have to earn it against overwhelming odds. If he ever thought he could, Giannoulias is surely now aware that he won't be taking a vacation after the primary a la Coakley. The White House will send whoever they have to send, and Chicago is not Boston . . . . Obama is the local boy (of sorts) who made good, as far as Chicago's Democrat faithful is concerned, and although Mayor Menino of Boston has been in office longer, he's a piker at Machine politics compared to Mayor Daley and his brother-from-another-mother, House Speaker Mike Madigan. If Rahm Emanuel has to bust some heads, he will (not literally . . . . unless he can get away with it.)