Ward Room
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Mark Kirk: Lonely Moderate

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Mark Kirk: Lonely Moderate
Mark Kirk: Lonely Moderate

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Mark Kirk is taking fire from all sides since backing away from his promise to “lead the effort” to repeal President Obama’s health care reform bill.

The left, the right and the middle are each calling him the North Shore’s biggest waffler since the Walker Brothers set up shop.

The conservative, anti-tax group Club for Growth pressured Kirk into signing this statement:

“I hereby pledge to the people of my state to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”

Now that Kirk appears to be reneging, the Club for Growth isn’t happy, and may not support his Senate campaign.

“He said that he’s going to do this,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly told The Plum Line. “We expect him to live up to his pledge.”

The Frum Forum, the website of former Bush speechwriter David Frum, thinks Kirk was a chump to sign the pledge in the first place:

“Kirk though should run from the pledge as fast as he can,” contributor Jeb Golinkin wrote. “By signing the pledge, Kirk opened himself to attacks from the left that he is an establishment Republican (he is not, which is why the Club for Growth is reluctant to fully throw their support behind him in the first place) and Kirk is right to back off as gingerly as possible. The Club for Growth’s suggestion that they might not back Kirk in the general election is laughably outrageous. Would they rather have Alexi Giannoulias?”

From the left comes an attack by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of Daily Kos, who predicts Kirk’s repeal pledge will become the campaign’s number one issue.

“Bottom line, Kirk isn't happy his words leaked out, he's not happy his true agenda has been exposed, he's not happy that Illinois voters have seen the real him. But they have. And no matter how much Kirk may try to make Alexi's family's troubled bank the issue, the bottom line of this race is this: voters will have a choice between a candidate who wants to lead the reform repeal effort and work for the defeat of Barack Obama, and one who is actually on the side of Illinois voters.”

Kirk is suffering the fate of the Tragic Moderate. He was right to say that the Republicans “absolutely lost” the health care vote, and the only remaining fight is over details.

Unfortunately, angry conservatives are still in denial about their defeat, and conceding it makes Kirk look like a loser in their eyes. In a political culture that depends on permanent campaigning, and permanent demonization of the other side, the middle is an uncomfortable place.

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