By rolling out an early prime endorsement by U.S. Senator John McCain, Congressman Mark Kirk sets the bar pretty high for contenders in either party to make a splash with future endorsements.
McCain, if you recall, was the GOP nominee for president in 2008, but perhaps of more relevance in the IL senate race, is a sitting senator and veteran (not to mention a former POW). So far, none of the wanna-be senators on either side of the aisle have come up with anything nearly as impressive, and we still have months to go before the primary, not to mention the general elections. Unless Obama comes in for a Dem, which is far from certain in the general, and highly doubtful in the primary, this is likely to be the endorsement with the most 'star power' that anyone is going to be able to muster.
The media took notice. In addition to making the local evening news (ABC-7 video here, WGN-9 video here), check out the print coverage in the Sun-Times, Daily Herald, and Tribune.
While some are skeptical that this is any big deal, when you consider that Kirk's first challenge is to familiarize downstate voters with himself, discounting the advantages of having a national hero like McCain (whom everyone knows) in your corner is a bit nearsighted. And by bringing out the big guns early, any endorsements that the other little-known GOP contenders seek to roll out are going to pale in comparison.
UPDATED 5:45 p.m.: I saw just now that Congressman Bobby Rush is going to endorse Democratic hopeful Cheryle Jackson for U.S. Senate. As a local Congressman, Rush doesn't have the stature of a former presidential candidate such as McCain, but it ain't bad, and I think trumps anything Alexi or Hoffman have trotted out so far. As far as I'm concerned, I hope the Dem primary is a three-way snipe-fest all the way until February.
UPDATED x2 9/1/09 10:00 a.m.: She also got Meek's endorsement, says Sweet.