Update, February 2, 10:30p.m.: Mark Kirk won the GOP nomination by more than 35 points.
Can Republicans wrest control of the Senate seat held by Barack Obama just over a year ago? Yes, they can, says GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk. "If you’re the right kind of Republican who can put together a broad coalition of Republicans, independents, and some Democrats, you can repeat the Massachusetts miracle," Kirk told me during a phone interview late last week. "[Scott Brown's] victory electrified Republicans in Illinois."
Kirk's first challenge to keeping that coalition together is shoring up support from Republicans following tomorrow's GOP primary (which Kirk is expected to win by a healthy double-digit margin). Kirk's moderate and liberal votes in Congress have left some conservatives less than enthused about his Senate bid. According to Kirk's main GOP primary challenger, lawyer and political newcomer Patrick Hughes, "What got me into the race specifically was two things: one, Mark Kirk’s vote for cap and trade. … After he voted for cap and trade, I looked at his record [opposing] the [Iraq] surge and his incredible social liberalism."
Hughes rejects comparisons between Kirk and Scott Brown in Massachusetts. "I think that Scott Brown is a conservative," says Hughes, "far more on many fiscal and social and constitutional issues than Mark Kirk is." But is Brown really that much more conservative than Kirk?