My old law school chum Patrick Hughes is nothing if not an opportunist. When Pat figured out last year that Congressman Mark Kirk might be vulnerable as the presumed GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate race in Illinois due to his independent streak, Pat figured it was a prime opportunity to jump into politics and start at the top, even though he'd never been involved in politics before, and now we are learning, hardly ever even voted. Certainly not a chap who, as we like to say at GOP HQ, spent years "carrying water for the elephant" before trying for high public office (in fact, one of the highest).
Unfortunately for Pat, what he didn't realize is that a few other conservatives had already figured out the same thing, and when he jumped into the race, he found "his space" already occupied by a number of other candidates, none of whom (including Don Lowery and John Arrington ) show any sign of backing down and leaving the conservative vote all to Pat.
Given Kirk's popularity, record of achievement, and fundraising prowess, and the crowded primary field, Pat has not been able to gain much traction, either in locking up the conservative vote, or in raising the mega-bucks needed to be truly competitive in such a high-profile race. With only weeks to go before the February 2nd primary, Pat's starting to sweat more than a bit.
Now, just in the last few days, as we close in on a scant two weeks or so before the Illinois primary, Pat has sensed an opportunity with the surprising race that is unfolding in Massachusetts between Republican State Senator Scott Brown and the Democratic Attorney General, Martha Coakley. Although even President Barack Obama himself parachuted in to Massachusetts on Sunday to stump for Coakley, save his "rockstar" reputation, and most importantly, try to save that critical 60th vote to pass his radical healthcare overhaul, it still appears that Brown has a good chance to pull this out and eke out a win for the GOP in that bluest of blue states, "Taxachusetts."
In a previous post, I cautioned readers not to take the wrong message from a Brown win in Massachusetts. As much as we all are hoping desperately that Brown can win this, it should be recognized that Brown has deep national (as well as local) support from a broad base of the GOP (conservatives and moderates), and many independents, and a Brown win is not a win only for "conservatives" (including the self-proclaimed tea partiers) but rather a victory for "big tent" Republicans. Not to mention the fact that Brown himself is not a platform Republican, or even a politician that might be considered "conservative" in many states outside of Massachusetts.
Nevertheless, Pat Hughes has jumped on the Scott Brown bandwagon and hopes to leverage a Brown victory on Tuesday into jumpstarting his own moribund campaign. In order to do so, of course, Hughes needs to cast Brown as a platform conservative and new, anti-establishment face, like he fancies himself, in order to project a Brown victory into a reason that Illinois Republicans should vote for him, rather than the vastly more qualified and moderate Republican Mark Kirk.
Interestingly, Pat says, on a post today at the Hughes for Senate website:
We continue to see the same names on the ballots, elected officials hold positions for an excessive number of years, and new voters remain disengaged. The Conservative movement has re-engaged voters, engaged new voters, and brought new names to the ballot. I am one of those instances. As I saw our government grow at an incredible rate in just a single year and Republicans in Washington become part of the problem and not part of the solution, I decided to be more than just a voter, I decided to run for office.
It is time we see candidates who actually want to represent the people and not their own interests in Washington. It is time we see elected officials who hold themselves accountable to the people, but more importantly it is time we see a change in the political machine. All voters should feel engaged by our political process and truly believe their voices are heard. It is time for establishment leaders to stop making our political decisions for us and let us choose our candidates and choose our issues.
What Pat doesn't seem to realize, of course, is that Scott Brown IS the "establishment" candidate, having served as a Republican state representative and then a senator. He's anything but like Hughes, who has never run for office and only showed up on the Republican scene this past fall.
More importantly, Brown is not a "platform Republican," and in fact, bears a striking resemblance to the kind of Pol that Pat and his supporters would most likely label a "RINO" if he were a state senator here in Illinois. Among other non-orthodox views, Brown is pro-choice, and he failed the conservative litmus test of Senator Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund, which endorsement Hughes pursued desperately, but never achieved. Yet, Hughes suggests that on Tuesday, "we will see a chain of events set into motion that will result in a Conservative revolution by the time the polls close in November." Indeed, Hughes wants to take credit on behalf of all conservatives for a Brown win, and says, "I honestly believe that the size and scope of the Conservative movement has been underestimated up to this point, but when the polls close and the votes are tallied in Massachusetts, the impossible win will become a reality."
Well, sorry, Pat, but a hoped-for Brown victory is not a harbinger of a conservative revolution that will sweep you into office in Illinois. As I suggested previously, and even your hero Jim DeMint seems to recognize, the hunger of people to stop ObamaCare in its tracks and return some sanity to Washington trumps the conservative litmus test that you have been campaigning on for the last several months (UPDATED: 1/18/10 7:50 a.m.: The latest polling has Brown up over Coakley, 51% to 46%). A Brown victory is going to be a referendum on socialized medicine and a protest against a bill so blatantly unfair, that the only people that will vote for it represent the constituencies that will not be affected by it, and/or will be bribed. There's just no other way to put it.
That doesn't mean that a state like Illinois is going to usher in a guy that campaigns on a promise to strictly adhere to the Republican platform... and even conservatives may think twice when they discover that Pat is the kind of politician that says one thing (i.e., I'm a rock-solid vote for the Republican platform) and then turns around and gives accolades to a candidate that looks like a winner (for now) but in fact doesn't measure up to Hughes' conservative ideals.
I gave money to Brown and I truly hope he wins. I'm curious if Pat really supports Brown as well, or if Pat simply knows a good thing when he sees it, and is trying to hijack a Brown victory for his own political purposes. I guess supporting so-called "RINOs," who Pat claims to despise, is OK, IF they don't happen to be your opponent.
Earlier, I quoted from the endorsement of Scott Brown from the Cape Cod Times:
It is no surprise that Brown has been gaining momentum in a state, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. He has run an energetic campaign and has been outspoken on the issues. More importantly, however, we believe he is less likely of the two candidates to toe the party line. For example, in an editorial board meeting with the Cape Cod Times earlier this week, Brown was critical of President Bush and defended President Obama regarding the current financial crisis.
In his last re-election to the state Senate in 2008, Brown won by a 59-41 percent margin. Part of his success comes from his willingness to work with Democrats on important issues.
"I would not have been overwhelmingly re-elected if I didn't know how to work across party lines," Brown said in the primary. "If the Democrats have a good idea, I'd be happy to vote with them."
Sounds like Brown is a politician much closer philosophically to Mark Kirk than the my-way-or-the-highway Pat Hughes.
I think a Brown victory speaks a lot more to a rationale for voting for moderate Mark Kirk than a Pat Hughes. But if Brown wins, we'll see if Illinois conservatives are hungry enough for a victory over ObamaCare that they will forgive Hughes for supporting a non-platform Republican like Brown.
UPDATED 1/18/10 7:30 a.m.: Interestingly, this morning our friends at conservative blog Illinois Review offer a tip of the hat the Scott Brown race due to its importance on the healthcare vote, but you can tell it rankles them somewhat, since Brown does not meet their conservative standards:
Scott Brown's appeal is that he's not a Democrat, and despite his not-so-conservative positions, focus group voters seem to like his "family man" image.
Well, if even Jim DeMint can support Brown simply because of his importance on the healthcare vote, you would think local conservatives would not be so begrudging in their praise.
I think all Illinois Republicans should get behind Brown with enthusiasm but they should do it recognizing that Brown is not a conservative and does not represent, as Pat Hughes would have you believe, the forefront of a nationwide lurch to the far right that bolsters his bid for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. Brown is a lot more like Mark Kirk than Pat Hughes, as Illinois Review may be subliminally acknowledging. Well, they need to get over it if the GOP in Illinois has any chance of making headway this coming November. Kirk, not Hughes, is the future of this party, campers.