During a campaign stop in Chicago Sunday, Sen. Mark Kirk sidestepped questions about who he’s backing for president.
“[I] don’t really need to discuss my write-in choice because it’s not that important,” Kirk told reporters Sunday. “It’s not going to swing the election at all.”
In March, Kirk told NBC 5 that he would back Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump if he were the Republican nominee. The senator ultimately pulled his tacit endorsement of Trump in June after the billionaire made a series of inflammatory statements about the heritage of a Hispanic judge presiding over civil fraud lawsuits against his beleaguered Trump University.
Later that month, Kirk said he would write-in embattled former Director of the Central intelligence Agency David Petraeus, a retired four-star Army general.
Petraeus resigned from his post as the CIA’s director in 2012 following a scandal stemming from an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Petraeus pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information for providing said information to Broadwell.
After facing criticism, Kirk changed course in July and started backing former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who would also be a write-in candidate.
Last week, Kirk noted that he couldn’t back Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because she “was for the Iran agreement and I can’t support someone who was for the Iran agreement."
Powell, who is also a four-star Army general, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last year that he supported the deal. At the time, Powell said the agreement would “stop this highway race they were going down” toward Iran building a nuclear weapon.
Now, Kirk isn’t publicly endorsing Powell as his write-in choice or any other candidate.
"He is not supporting Trump and he has made it clear he would not support Clinton,” Kirk spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement.
Kirk is locked in one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races with Rep. Tammy Duckworth, whose campaign slammed Kirk Monday.
“Republican Mark Kirk has officially struck out when it comes to picking a presidential candidate in 2016, showing remarkably bad judgment and an inability to keep his facts straight in the process,” Duckworth spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement. “In the Trump era, deciding who should be the next president is serious business but Senator Kirk has been deeply unserious. Still, it’s refreshing to see him acknowledge what has long been evident: he doesn’t have much influence in the state of Illinois.”
On Sunday, Kirk said he was focused on “sending someone who is the best representative for the state of Illinois.” He saidDuckworth “represents Chicagoland,” while he represents “the rest of the state."