Remember when President Obama’s old Senate seat was the Republican Party’s biggest prize for 2010?
The GOP isn’t so excited anymore. Take the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is headed by Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the right-winger trying to remake the Senate in his own image. The Fund’s Take Back America campaign is trying to raise money for would-be conservative senators, including Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, Sharron Angle of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Kirk’s name is not on the list.
According to Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “the Senate Conservatives Fund…announced that it has contributed more than $5.2 million to 14 Republican Senate candidates this campaign season, almost all of them backed by tea party activists and opposed to compromise on fiscal and social principles…This has raised questions about the role Mr. DeMint might play in the next Congress, and whether he’ll function as the de facto leader of a group of senators determined to cut spending and taxes and repeal President Barack Obama’s health plan, at the cost of tying up the Senate if necessary.”
And here’s a typical comment about Kirk from freerepublic.com, the number-one conservative message board: “Vote for Kirk to stop an Obama-ite crook, then vote for the REAL Republicans on the rest of the ballot.”
Kirk may become a serious, respected senator. Among the Senate leadership, he’ll be more welcome than a dingbat like Rand Paul, who is seen as more interested in quoting Ayn Rand than writing legislation.
But don’t look for the Republican Who Replaced Obama to become a GOP star.
Kirk’s estrangement from his party’s right wing -- which was calculated to help him win in liberal Illinois -- means he’s not going to be a sought-after speaker at fundraisers around the country. Plus, Kirk damaged his image by exaggerating his military record. He’s actually sort of an embarrassment now, even to mainstream Republicans, who are sticking with him out of party loyalty and disdain for Alexi Giannoulias.
Conservative audiences crave red meat; the moderate Kirk is rubber chicken.