Lost in the coverage of the extremely tight Republican and Democratic governor's primaries, and the upcoming Giannoulias/Kirk showdown for Senate, were three candidates who suffered stinging rebukes at the polls in Illinois on Tuesday.
Adam Andrzejewski and Dan Proft, Republicans for Governor, and Patrick Hughes, Republican for Senate, all claimed the Tea Party mantle in their respective races. Each positioned himself as the next Scott Brown, a hard-line conservative who could win in a traditionally blue state.
But he and Proft finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the six-man Republican field for governor's race. Kirk Dillard, who was smeared by his opponents for saying nice things about Barack Obama, is within a few hundred votes of the lead in a primary that may be headed for recount.
And on the Senate side, despite his best efforts to rally Tea Party support, Patrick Hughes got hammered by the more moderate Mark Kirk, a "party insider" and fifth-term congressman who supports a woman's right to choose and voted in favor of cap-and-trade legislation.
In short, for all of the hand-wringing about what Massachusetts would mean for Illinois, the upstart conservative wing of the Illinois Republican Party will have no presence in the top-ticket races come November.
According to a Politico report, conservatives are hoping that the media won't draw conclusions:
Conservatives dismissed Kirk's win as inevitable, despite his challenges from the right by the tea-party-backed Patrick Hughes.
"I think most conservatives realized that Kirk would win that primary a while back and are not terribly enthused about it," said influential conservative blogger Ed Morrissey of the right-leaning site Hot Air. "They'll still argue for Kirk over [Democratic nominee Alexi] Giannoulias."
Bill Wilson, a longtime conservative operative and the president of Americans for Limited Government, told POLITICO that "Mark Kirk has a strong base of support and the opposition was, for him, more of a warning that he could not track too far to the left."
Wilson cautioned that Massachusetts may have set expectations too high for conservatives heading into primary season for this fall's elections.
If the pro-establishment, pro-moderate Republican primaries in Illinois are any indication, they certainly have.
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