Yesterday’s reports that Mark Kirk is eyeing a Senate run in Illinois and Attorney General Lisa Madigan is not are a shot in the arm for the GOP. Both developments go a long way toward putting the seat held by Sen. Roland Burris in play, as the Republicans appear to have gotten their strongest candidate while the Democrats have lost theirs. Burris is almost certainly toast, probably in the primary should he be stubborn enough to run. That leaves Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias as the likely Democratic frontrunner. Giannoulias is, shall we say, a Chicago type of pol.
Conservative enthusiasm for Kirk is tempered by the fact that he’s not just a moderate, but one of the eight Republicans to vote for the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill, making him a tax-hiker. In the early ’90s, even the most liberal Republicans — Jim Jeffords, John Chafee, Mark Hatfield, and Arlen Specter — voted against the Clinton tax increases. But given a 60-seat Democratic supermajority and a lack of plausible conservative primary challengers, most Illinois conservatives will probably get behind Kirk as a strongest pickup opportunity behind Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat in Connecticut.
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