05/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mark Kirk Backtracks On Health Care Repeal Comments

Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk has ended his media silence on health care, but seems to be backing away from his previous pledge to repeal the law.

At a campaign event on Tuesday, Kirk gave no direct answer when reporters "asked repeatedly"if he wanted to repeal health care reform, echoing a comment Kirk made when the bill passed. His response, according to NBC Chicago: "I voted against it, but we lost. My job is to explain how this will affect voters."

Two weeks ago, Politico obtained audio of Kirk, at a Republican dinner in suburban Winnetka, saying he would lead the charge to repeal President Obama's signature health care reform. At the same dinner, he referred to Obama as "this guy" and a "one-termer."

Alexi Giannoulias has pressed Kirk aggressively on the remarks. He launched a fake Facebook page showing Kirk palling around with lobbyists, far-right Republicans and the Club for Growth while pushing to repeal the health care bill. He also released videos featuring a "Repeal It! Clock" measuring how long Kirk had been silent on health care since the repeal remarks surfaced.

Giannoulias is not the only one who wants answers from Kirk. Following Tuesday's event, Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly told Greg Sargent that "they expect him to live up to his promise."

"He said that he's going to do this," Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly told Sargent by phone. "We expect him to live up to his pledge."

Kirk had signed the Club's repeal pledge, which states: "I hereby pledge to the people of my state to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government."

"He's made a promise to the people of Illinois," Connolly told Sargent.

Asked if failing to follow through could cost Kirk the Club's support in a general election, Connolly said: "We'll have to see."

Kirk is taking heat on both sides for his repeal remarks. On Friday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow slammed his stance on health reform. "Really, Mark Kirk?" Maddow asked. "You want to lead the effort to restore the insurance industry's right to deny coverage to kids who have preexisting conditions? ... That's what you're gonna campaign on?"

Kirk sought to turn the tables back on Giannoulias on Tuesday. NBC Chicago reports that Kirk asked, "When the Broadway Bank collapses on April 23rd will Alexi come clean?"

Giannoulias' bank woes might make headlines again on that date. But until then, the pressure is on Kirk over health care reform, and today's event answered few questions.