Do Conservatives Need to Look in on Illinois's Senate Race?

Mark Kirk, the front runner in the race for the GOP nomination for Illinois’s Senate seat, appears to be cruising to a sure primary victory in February. His challenger, Patrick Hughes, has not made ad buys yet, has no name recognition, and for all intents and purposes has barely put on a political campaign. Hughes also only has $340,048.00 on hand compared to $2.3 million on Mark Kirk’s side.If conservatives united behind Hughes, Kirk could be in serious trouble in the primary. Republicans, however, have got it in their heads that Mark Kirk is the only Republican who can win the general election.Talking to more and more Republicans in Illinois, I have a few concerns. I have said for a while that I would be fine with Kirk in Illinois, and I would. I think taking about Bob Bennett in Utah must be a much higher priority for conservatives. But conservatives who are happy to “grin and bear it” with Kirk may at least want to consider the following:Kirk voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.Kirk voted against the partial birth abortion ban.Kirk opposed the Iraq War surge strategy.Kirk has an “F” grade from the National Rifle Association.And let’s not forget TARP, Cap and Trade, etc.I hear from seriously credible people in Illinois, not just my twitter followers, that conservatives inside Illinois are very unhappy with Kirk and do not think he can beat the Democrat, despite his repeated wins in his Chicago area district.This is the conundrum and why I am writing about this one — Kirk is not a conservative. The question is: is Mark Kirk the most electable guy the Illinois GOP can put up in 2010?Perhaps he is, especially given his money advantage, but competent, serious Republicans in Illinois tell me that Kirk can’t win the general despite the view from Washington because Kirk cannot distinguish himself in any meaningful way from the Democrat and not only does not excite the GOP base, but viscerally makes the GOP base want to punch him.Given those dynamics, Washington, D.C. conservatives may want to take one more look at Patrick Hughes before getting into bed with a man they all admit will knife them in the chest with a smile once he gets to D.C.