The 2004 election in the Senate is shaping up to be a potential dream season for a Club for Growth leader Stephen Moore. It hasn’t even started yet, and already for a more conservative opponent in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania has Sen. Arlen Specter running right.
Now comes word that Sen. Peter Fitzgerald from Illinois isn’t going to run for re-election, leaving open yet another Senate slot for Moore to fill.
Fitzgerald spent more than $13 million of his own money in 1998 to defeat Republican favorite Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (hyphen withheld at her request). He would have been expected to spend at least that much again for another term, but he has become so unpopular within the more conservative Republican Senate caucus that few colleagues were enthusiastic about a re-election run.
“There weren’t many senators interested in helping him,” says a staffer on the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. “He hasn’t been a team player, and team players get first priority.”
Unless Moore can come up with a front-line grassroots candidate, the current Republican frontrunner for that seat is Rep. Ray LaHood.
As reported by the Prowler several months ago, Fitzgerald put in a miserable performance for in-state Republican candidates last fall, leading some Republicans to express a willingness to look for a replacement. His poll numbers were already troubling then, and they haven’t improved since. In this situation, the prospects of shelling out millions of dollars on a campaign seemingly already lost proved too much for the one-term senator.