Sen. Mark Kirk survived his stroke. Now, the National Journal wonders whether he can survive as a politician. Kirk, as we’ve noted before, represents the most Democratic state of any Republican senator. And, he’s one of the few senators who entered office with a plurality of the vote, winning only 48 percent in 2010. That was a Republican year, and Kirk was running against a weak Democrat -- Alexi Giannoulias, a 32-year-old, one-term state treasurer whose family bank collapsed after making loans to borrowers with organized crime links. In 2016, Kirk will be running in a presidential year, when more Democratic voters turn out.
While praising Kirk for his recovery, the magazine notes that he walks with a four-pronged cane for short trips and a wheelchair for longer trips, and wonders whether he has recovered enough to win a tough election in a big state:
Kirk says he's already planning to run for a second term in 2016, despite the rigor it will take to defend a seat in one of the most Democratic states in the country.
Kirk's recovery has been remarkable by the standards of a stroke patient, even as it's still left him without his pre-injury vigor or ability to hustle the way politicians must to win reelection in competitive seats. He walks slowly. His voice is weakened. He's not all he was. But his comeback has been inspiring.
On the other hand, the Journal writes, Kirk is as well-suited as a Republican can be to Illinois, and to the 21st Century:
He rejects the idea that Republican moderates are an endangered species, but he sounds the refrain that his party has been myopic. "What often happens is that people or politicians get out of date, and that's my worry about the Republican Party. It apparently doesn't understand how multicolored and how multicultural our country has become." Kirk was the second GOP senator, after Rob Portman and before Lisa Murkowski, to support same-sex marriage--putting him ahead of Illinois, which has yet to grant it. Divorced, with a girlfriend and no kids, and having remained unmarried until 41, Kirk gets modern families in a way that many Republicans don't. Whether that'll make him an outlier or a lodestar in the GOP remains to be seen.
Will Kirk’s health be an issue? Not as much as his politics. The question, the National Journal is asking, is whether he’ll have the energy to defend his record.