23 August, 2010

Sunday With Mark Kirk

I attended a small political rally at a private residence on Sunday for US Senate candidate Mark Kirk.

Mr. Kirk was as gracious and friendly as he always is, talking enthusiastically with the guests and answering their questions. Granted, I doubt there were any in the audience who were not already planning to vote for him, so I think it unlikely any minds were actually changed at this get together. But I do think most came away with a renewed sense of purpose to work towards his election. Which is good, because all the signs are that this is going to be a pretty tight race.

In speaking of which, according to Mark Kirk's campaign chair, Alexi Gianoulias's campaign is so short on funds right now that they've canceled their ad buys for the rest of the month to conserve resources and may not be running ads again until after Labor Day. If that's true, then that's a major sign things aren't going well for his fund raising; even though the campaigns have yet to go into high gear, its a bad sign when one race concedes the advertising race to their opponent at the very time when people are starting to come to their decisions as to who to support. For the moment, the Kirk campaign appears to have the upper hand in terms of finances; however, they do not expect that to last. The Democrats are widely expected to put the Kirk-Gianoulias race at the top of their agenda in terms of funds allocation, because they don't want Obama's old seat to fall into Republican hands.

Add to this is the curious fact that, due to a recent court decision regarding the Illinois Senate election, it is likely that whoever wins will be seated within weeks of being certified rather than months as normal. This is an important development because the Democrats may have to face 42 Republicans in the Senate rather than 41 when the Lame Duck session starts after the election. The Democrats know they're going to lose seats this year; how many remains to be determined. Any hopes they may have of being able to shove through legislation during the lame duck session (like, say, a VAT tax) may rest on preventing Kirk from becoming the 42nd Republican vote in the Senate. Therefore, this race is taking on even more significance. The Democrats desperately don't want to lose this seat, and they will do whatever they can to keep it theirs.

For the moment, the Kirk campaign says their own internal poll numbers say that the race is close but the trends are "not going Gianoulias' way". While I will note that all campaigns pretty much say things like that, the evidence I'm seeing in Illinois suggests they are correct: what little support I see for Alexi Gianoulias is luke-warm at best, while by far people are expressing interest and enthusiasm for Mark Kirk. I expect that to continue the closer we get to the election, and baring any major ground-shaking revelations, I am at this time going to predict a close-but-certain win for Mark Kirk.

As a side note, Pat Quinn's race for a full term as governor isn't going too well either. On Friday he fired the PR firm running his campaign -- which at this time before an election, is a sure sign that a campaign is imploding. He is evidently having more problems than Gianoulias raising cash, and without the impetus of national implications, his race is barely registering among Democrats. Again, unless something earth shattering happens between now and November 2, I think Bill Brady will be the next Governor of Illinois, and one who will win by a comfortable margin. But as ever, there's still 2 1/2 months left before the election, and anything can happen between now and then.

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