In Illinois, a state where the president remains popular and in a race where his running as a moderate is important, Mark Kirk made a colossal gaffe when he came out in favor of “repealing” the healthcare bill. He handed the national news media, specifically Rachel Maddow, an easy talking point which Alexi Giannoulias promptly turned into his new “Really, Mark Kirk?” TV spot. Kirk has spent the ensuing days walking it back, and yesterday, he dodged questions from reporters regarding whether or not he was still planning to stand by the commitment he made when he signed onto the Club for Growth’s “repeal pledge”. The statement reads:
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.
Yesterday, Plum Line asked the Club for Growth if it would hold Kirk to his pledge. Spokesman Mike Connolly responded that “He said that he’s going to do this. We expect him to live up to his pledge.” Connolly continued, explaining that “He’s made a promise to the people of Illinois” and that they would “have to see” whether the Club would oppose Kirk in the general election if he backed off his promise.
Kirk though should run from the pledge as fast as he can. By signing the pledge, Kirk opened himself to attacks from the left that he is an establishment Republican (he is not, which is why the Club for Growth is reluctant to fully throw their support behind him in the first place) and Kirk is right to back off as gingerly as possible. The Club for Growth’s suggestion that they might not back Kirk in the general election is laughably outrageous. Would they rather have Alexi Giannoulias?
Mark Kirk should have known better than to sign that pledge. Furthermore, the Club for Growth still hasn’t given Kirk a dime. Now, they are hurting his candidacy by further shedding light on a decision that Kirk needs to move away from. If the Club really wants to achieve its goals, it can start by backing Mark Kirk. But if they insist on threatening to withdraw support they have never truly given him, in the end, Kirk is probably better off without them.