CASH ON HAND $3,946,527
RUNNING FOR U.S. SENATE MARK KIRK (R)
The Man: 10th district Congressman Mark Kirk -- a Naval reserve officer and self-described "national security hawk" who can recite America's Afghan military strategy from memory --has long been considered a moderate Republican: fiscally conservative, but trending liberal on social issues. He's also been a popular representative, consistently winning reelection in an independent-minded district of Democratic Illinois.
After winning his party's nomination, Kirk came to be viewed as a Scott Brown-like contender for Obama's former senate seat. His voting record belies an independent's streak, e.g., he voted to repeal oil company tax breaks and opposed an Afghan surge. But Kirk also supported President Bush's budget requests. And he's drawn the White House's ire by vowing to "lead the effort" to repeal the health care bill.
The Knock: Kirk's campaign hit a rough spot this summer after the Washington Post published an article questioning his military record. Kirk said he "misremembered" receiving a Naval Intelligence Officer of the year award, and then awkwardly tried to cover up a series of "mistruths" on his resume. Kirk has also been criticized for changing his mind on controversial issues like cap and trade and gun control. Despite the debacle, Kirk has managed to keep the race close with his "down-stater with a North Shore address" rhetoric.
The Strategy: Kirk has received endorsements and campaign contributions from Republican celebs Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie, but has distanced himself from Sarah Palin. He is also one of the few Republican candidates who hasn't reached out to the Tea Party. As the election nears, Kirk continues to attack Giannoulias' business acumen while promoting himself as a pragmatic policy wonk.