A hot-off-the-press Chicago Tribune poll shows 10th District Congressman Mark Kirk with a growing lead over the crowded field of GOP contenders, with 47% of likely Republican primary voters choosing Kirk. Businessman Patrick Hughes continues to lag far behind, at 8%, with several other candidates, including downstate former judge Donald Lowery, school board member Kathleen Thomas, businessman John Arrington and self-described muckraker Andy Martin all coming in at 3% each. There are only nine days left until the February 2nd primary.
The last Tribune poll in December showed Kirk with 41% of the vote, with Hughes and Thomas at 3%, so Kirk continues to increase the distance from his competitors.
Hughes has been trying desperately to gain momentum and traction in this campaign, largely through outreach to the "Tea Party" movement. So far, it doesn't seem to have gotten him anywhere:
Hughes has sought to cultivate support from disaffected Republicans and others through the "tea party" movement critical of higher taxes and spending and big government, citing Kirk's initial support for cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon emissions. Kirk, a social moderate, has since said he would not vote for such legislation in representing the entire state.
More than half of GOP voters said they agreed with the tea party movement, including nearly 70 percent of those who describe themselves as very conservative. But that hasn't translated into support for Hughes. The survey found Kirk being supported by 48 percent of Republicans who said they backed the tea party movement while Hughes got only 10 percent support.
This bad news for Hughes comes on the heels of the disclosure that his campaign is nearly broke -- despite desperate appeals for money from supporters, Hughes reported only $22,561.34 in the bank as of January 13th, 2010.
The Tribune article also indicates that former banker Alexi Giannoulias is clearly maintaining his lead, despite a spirited challenge from former U.S. Attorney David Hoffman. Giannoulias has raised over $3.5 million in this campaign cycle. He has spent heavily to guard his flank against Hoffman.
As of January 13th, Mark Kirk reported raising almost $5 million for this campaign to date, and has over $3 million in the bank.
The Chicago Tribune said:
U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk is the favorite in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, and for very good reason. He has been an extraordinarily effective representative of the independent-minded 10th Congressional District for a decade. His track record shows he has conservative principles and he has the instincts to succeed in Washington, no matter which party is in control.
Kirk is universally regarded as the GOP's best chance to win against Giannoulias and pick up the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. His major media endorsements include the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Northwest Herald, the Kane County Chronicle, the State Journal Register, the Peoria Journal Star Earlier and earlier today, the Champaign News-Gazette.