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Bayh Out, Senate Follies in Illinois

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 16, 2010 3:30PM

2010_2_mark_kirk_with_bush.jpg Indiana Senator Evan Bayh celebrated President's Day by saying that he was frustrated with the partisan gridlock in Washington. "After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned,'' Bayh announced in a press conference. Bayh's announcement was a shock to Democrats bracing for rough midterm elections. But Bayh was hardly the darling of the Democratic Party. “He’s finished,” a Democratic political consultant active in national races told Politico. “His party needed him to stay and fight, and he ran away. People won’t forget.” Meanwhile, former Republican Dan Coats, who replaced Dan Quayle in 1989 and left congress in 1999 has moved back into the state to run for senate, leaving Indiana Democrats struggling to run a candidate that can carry a conservative midwestern state.

In Illinois, Greg Hinz at Crain's hears that a more conservative right-winger may step up to challenge Mark Kirk. "Kirk would be very wise to listen to what some of the conservatives have to say," Family-PAC's Paul Caprio told Hinz. "There are a lot of people who fear Mark could become another Arlen Specter," Caprio said. Family-PAC describes itself as "the leading pro-family, anti-tax political action committee in Illinois," having spent nearly $2 million to support "pro-family candidates committed to low taxes and limited government." Dan Proft, the conservative radio commentator who ran for governor in the GOP primary, doesn't think Kirk has anything to worry about, telling Hinz that rumors of a hard-right candidate are "nothing I take seriously. A lot of folks with grand visions and no plan. . . .I don't see anything credible on the horizon, at least not yet."

Regardless, John McCain, who was in Chicago Monday for a closed-door fundraiser for Kirk, told the Tribune that GOP victories in other states don't mean that Kirk has an easy race ahead of him. “People all over this country are angry, they’re upset, they’re frustrated,” McCain said. “So, obviously the Scott Brown election in Massachusetts invigorated all of us, but we Republicans, including ... Kirk, including me as I run for re-election, have to convince the American people we’re worthy of their support. We haven’t closed the deal yet.”