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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
HomeIllinois PoliticsBiga: Donald Trump could be Mark Kirk’s Electoral Manna from Heaven

Biga: Donald Trump could be Mark Kirk’s Electoral Manna from Heaven




By Frank J. Biga III - 

Senator Mark Kirk won his primary fight for the Republican nomination quite handily with a 3 to 1 margin over his opponent James Marter. Kirk clearly performed better than many conservatives in the state had hoped, although Mr. Marter did not have the funds to run a vigorous campaign against a well-known incumbent.

But Donald Trump also outperformed winning 39 delegates out of a possible 54 in the 18 Congressional Districts. Cruz got 9 and Kasich got 6. Trump also won 15 more delegates to be chosen at the state convention in May as a result of winning the statewide vote. But Trump also beat expectations receiving nearly 39% of the statewide popular vote despite hovering around 33% in the recent polling leading up to election day. Senator Cruz only tallied 30% despite spending major time in Illinois the last few days of the campaign, including a five-city fly around.

Cruz’ events were well-attended and he received a lot of institutional support and favorable coverage by some local conservative media. So, how to explain this dichotomy of Trump outperforming despite not having much of a permanent staff in the state and Cruz underperforming with a larger staff and network of influential supporters?

I suggest that Trump truly is tapping in to a new mother lode of voters for the Republican party and any attempts to derail Trump at the convention will likely lead to permanent damage to the Republican party. Many of these new voters are willing to try out the GOP because of Trump and will quickly abandon the party if he is not the nominee.

Consider some statistics from the city of Chicago only. Every one of the congressional districts in the city had substantial increases in votes cast in the city in the Republican delegate races from the 2012 race to the 2016 race.. The 1st district went from 4,759 to 7,026. More impressive though was the southwestern suburban and working class 3rd district which went from 13,193 to 25,864. The 5th district went from 42,714 to 85,408 and the 9th had the biggest percentage gain going from 13,286 to 29,049. In addition, the overall Republican ballots cast in the city of Chicago went from 47,896 in 2012 to 85,243 this election.

These are all impressive gains in participation in the GOP primary. Some of it is crossover by true Democrats just trying to muddy the Republican race. But this factor is limited due to what was a close Clinton-Sanders race. It is clear that much of these solid increases are due to Donald Trump being in the race. And Trump did win most of these districts’ delegate races.

Now Senator Mark Kirk faces the race of his political life in November. He goes up against two-term Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and is considered the most endangered Republican Senate incumbent this cycle. Polls have consistently shown Duckworth beating Kirk but her numbers are well below the crucial 50% threshold so this is not a sure thing for her by any stretch.

To be honest, I think this is a very winnable race for Kirk, but a lot will hinge on who the Presidential nominee of the party is. If the party poobahs pull a fast one and deny Trump the nomination through the usage of arcane and byzantine convention rules, much of the base will be severely depressed and turnout will be lower than ever. I mean, why turn out to vote if you’re not listened to and a cabal of oligarchs just decide what they want? This feeling is now manifold in the party grassroots. So there will be a lot more than three million missing conservative voters as there was in 2012. And the increased GOP turnout of mostly moderate voters in the city indicative of a realignment of certain voters will dissipate completely.

But if Trump is indeed the nominee, whether he wins Illinois or not, he will bring more new Republican voters to the polls again in November and many of them will vote for Kirk as well. Kirk is despised by the ultra conservatives, who will vote against him no matter what as they did in the primary. But new voters to the GOP will probably not be as picky in selecting a Senator and a lot of this will rebound to Kirk’s benefit.

Kirk, the skillful politician that he is, is right now playing both sides of the fence. He recently told Donald Trump in a WGN interview to “Callate” or “Shut Up” after the events at the UIC Pavilion. But Kirk has also stated to NBC that he would support Trump if he is the GOP Presidential nominee. Kirk must see the benefits to a Trump candidacy as well.  

Kirk is a political heavyweight. He had some of the best political ads I’ve seen in Illinois politics in his 2010 race against Alexi Giannoulias. He also found a way to win every race he’s been in including a tough Congressional race in 2008 against Dan Seals . So, don’t count Mark Kirk out, his re-election may be one of the surprises on November 8, and he may very well have Donald Trump to thank.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.


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  1. Illinois is a state that also allowed a registered Democrat or a registered Independent voter to cast a GOP ballot unlike what some other states will not allow. This could have been why there was such an increase in GOP ballots cast this Spring 2016 election. Many Democrats also want Kirk going against Duckworth because Kirk so far is showing that in polling organizations polling data that Kirk would not be able to defeat Duckworth in November 2016.

  2. I think there might be Democrats who would vote for Trump because of his stance on immigration. One of my co-workers (a Dem) remarked that Trump is the only one talking about this issue. The Republican elites don’t live in neighborhoods that have illegal immigrants; their kids don’t go to schools with illegal immigrants; and they are not competing with immigrants (both legal and illegal) for jobs. So yes, I think some Dems might find Trump an attractive choice because he is very pragmatic and talks about issues that affect them personally.

  3. I disagree.
    Trump voters are anti-establishment they may check off Trump only and put anti – establishment write ins who pop up by using Trump’s coat tails.
    The establishment GOP Kirk included, plan to distance themselves from Trump as much as possible. This includes all FIVE GOP senate seats in jeopardy. McConnell has already told these 5 senators they can run negative ads against Trump or distancing themselves from Trump if they need to. Kirk is definitely going to go this route.
    Kirk needs to willingly associate with Trump to get Trump supporters. A very very small segment of general voting pubic. NOT worth it.

  4. It’s more likely the opposite, folks.
    If the orange ringer is on top of the ticket, good Republicans in most states will still be inclined to show up to vote, because even if they skip the presidential race, they’ll vote the others.
    But since Illinois was idiotic enough to renominate Mark Kirk, that makes two people at the top of the ticket whom a significant percentage of Republican voters find reprehensible, thus reducing the odds of many voters showing up at all. Add to that the fact that many of our federal House districts are essentially uncontested (or are assumed to be, anyhow), and you have an unprecedented situation in which so many major offices are either unacceptable or pointless to vote for, in the eyes of much of the GOP base.
    As a result… the downballot devastation will be unprecedented. We can probably expect to lose every state house in the country this fall if trump is on the top of our ticket. In Illinois, where we don’t have the house anyway, we’ll see even our small minority whittled further.
    This party has GOT to find a way to stop Trump by the convention. The downballot destruction is incalculable.

  5. the best the GOP can do is put in an an establishment candidate during their convention. Trump folks will either write him in or Trump will go independent. The 20% of the GOP who won’t vote for anybody else but Trump will be pissed and hysterical.
    Remember the mess the “small” Ron Paul contingency made in 2012? Wait till Trump folks show up while the establishment tries to do this.
    The GOP convention is going to be mess.

  6. The downballot destruction is incalculable.
    It is when the top of the ticket is talking about protecting American workers and the rest of the ticket is singing the praises of TPP and how shipping even more jobs overseas will really, this time we’re serious, benefit the American worker.

  7. ps… there are many delegates slotted to Trump that do not support him. They will be more than happy to jump to an establishment candidate.
    Also Trump people have not even started approaching delegates belonging to people who have pulled out of the race.
    I think Trumps folks just assume he needs to show up. But they are in for surprise if they think they can ignore the process and not work with delegates in advance.

  8. Sam, I know yours is a rhetorical question.
    There is NO party registration in Illinois except by what ballot, GOP or Democrat, you choose in the Primary election.
    This why we see candidates with zero political history running for GOP offices, and “party-line-jumpers” who hop from Democrat to Republican, and back again, depending on election opportunities, as recently in Kendall County.