Campaign 2010

Jun 26, 2013

The NRCC’s Quixotic Quest in Illinois

TO: Interested Parties

FR: DCCC Communications

RE: The NRCC’s Quixotic Quest in Illinois

DT: 6/26/13

While national Republicans continue to court Darlene Senger to run for Congress, the NRCC’s public embrace is sparking a Tea Party backlash, making it harder for Senger to win her primary and putting her at a serious disadvantage in the general election.

NRCC Sets up Establishment vs Tea Party Backlash

The NRCC’s public courtship of Senger is setting up an establishment vs Tea Party fight – a fight that establishment candidates have lost repeatedly since 2010. And in April, national Republicans’ damaging and extended courtship of Senger became public. “National Republican Campaign Committee Chair Greg Walden and Senger had dinner in Chicago…according to a knowledgeable Republican source. That followed a week of meeting with some top Republicans in Washington,” noted the Sun-Times.

Now Senger faces two possible Tea Party opponents who will drive the primary further to the right. Grundy County Board member Chris Balkema – who has spoken at Tea Party events in the past – and conservative radio talk show host Ian Bayne now have the opportunity to run anti-establishment Tea Party campaigns against Senger in the GOP primary.

The dynamics playing out for national Republicans in this primary are being repeated across the country. Rank-and-file Republicans no longer trust their House leaders, and anyone who associates with national establishment Republicans jeopardizes their own election prospects in a primary. Hotline noted: “A Pew Research Center survey in early May found that while only 42 percent of Republicans approve of their party's leaders in Washington…There is significantly less goodwill on the GOP side after a number of damaging nomination fights over the last decade…”

And the drumbeat has already begun. Bayne has already started sounding anti-establishment, Tea Party notes. “Bayne says that his campaign is designed to change the Republican party into a party to confront those who intend to harm Constitutional rights and freedoms,” read a recent press release from his campaign.

Senger’s Path to Winning the Primary Puts Her at a Disadvantage in General Election

Senger – who has a longtime record in Springfield of voting to raise taxes – will need to run hard to the right, emphasizing her socially conservative views in order to beat Balkema and Bayne. For Senger, that means emphasizing her opposition to gay marriage, her support for the death penalty, and her record of trying to ending a woman’s right to choose – all in a very Democratic district.

To win her primary, Senger will have to alienate general election voters. Senger’s only path to victory will force her into a weak position to win a general election in the newly drawn Democratic 11th District in Illinois – where Congressman Foster, a scientist and businessman, won by 17 points – with 59 percent of the vote -- outperforming President Obama, who received 58 percent of the vote. It’s no wonder the Rothenberg political report and others rate this seat “safe Democrat.”