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Instead, McConnell and his allies are looking ahead to a court fight and a tough 2002 election. Republican National Committee sources say that the party is in good shape financially for what may be the final races involving soft money. “But my gut tells me soft money will be around in 2004. I think we win this in the end in the Supreme Court,” says an RNC fundraiser. “It’s certainly something for us to rally around.”p> WHO LOST ILLINOIS? br> The Illinois gubernatorial race isn’t turning out the way it was supposed to, and that’s got the White House peeved. George W. Bush and some senior advisers stopped by Chicago last weekend to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and left angry at what they saw and heard. “It’s a mess,” says a White House political aide. “We’re in for a rough ride in Illinois. We’ve tried to stay out of it out of respect for Speaker Hastert. But it’s chaos there, we risk losing everything in the state.” /p>
Former Golden Gloves boxer and seminary student and current state attorney general Jim Ryan, 56, won the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday, but not before a bruising battle with two other candidates: Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood and state Sen. Patrick O’Malley. O’Malley, a pro-life, pro-guns conservative, in particular beat up on Ryan’s moderate positions. “Ryan would not have been our first pick,” says a senior Republican National Committee member. “But Dennis seemed to think he was the guy who could keep Republican control in Illinois. Who were we to question him?”
Even though Ryan was his hand-picked candidate, Dennis Hastert never bothered to ensure that the primary would be a closed affair. Nor did Hastert prevent Ryan from announcing his candidacy before his boss and political godfather, current governor George Ryan, who’s been under a dark ethical cloud, declared he would not seek a second term. “Hastert failed as a kingmaker,” says the RNC member. “This is looking like a disaster to us. Why was the White House worrying about California and not Illinois?”
In the end, Ryan spent more campaign money than any other candidate to win his primary and now faces a well-financed Democrat in Rep. Rod Blagojevich, who showed strength downstate in winning the Democratic nomination. (His Chicago House seat is expected to be filled by Clintonite Rahm Emanuel, who won the 5th district primary going away.) Already, Blagojevich is counting up the new fundraising dollars pouring in from organized labor and the Chicago political machine. He’s an early favorite to win the governor’s seat, a difficult pill for Republicans to swallow.p> ARMEY IN A FIGHT br> Lost in the primary flurries around the country was the bloody contest pitting retiring House Republican majority leader Dick Armey ‘s son, Scott, against several challengers for his father’s seat. The younger Armey failed to win the Republican nomination outright and will face off against local physician Michael Burgess . While Armey is still favored to win the seat, it was an embarrassing moment for the family that has held it since 1984. “We will have another Armey warming that seat come next January, don’t doubt it,” says a source close to the candidate. “The primary was a blip. We’ll win the runoff and run hard from there.” /p>
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