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IL SEN: Courting Sarah

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Patrick Hughes, a conservative running for Obama's U.S. Senate seat next year, is out with a statement after the news came out of his primary opponent Mark Kirk's appeal to Sarah Palin for her endorsement.

"I believe Mark Kirk, who has consistently supported President Obama's legislative agenda, including cap and trade legislation, is quickly realizing that Republican Primary voters do not share his extreme views," Hughes said in a statement released by his campaign. "In a desperate attempt to prove otherwise, he is seeking the endorsement of Sarah Palin, a true Reagan conservative, to help disguise his liberal voting record."

Hughes, an attorney and Chicago-area developer, is also the chairman of the recently created PAC Sensible Taxpayers Opposed to Increased Taxes, or STOP-IT. It was created, according to the STOP-IT Web site, "in the aftermath of Taxpayer 'Tea Party' protests ... to oppose Governor Patrick Quinn's proposals to increase corporate and individual tax rates by 50%."

Hughes released a poll last month showing himself down 24%-11% to Kirk in a primary, but with far fewer knowing him than Kirk. His campaign hopes that will give Hughes an opening if he can become better known.

Of course, one important way to improve name ID is to raise -- and spend -- lots of money. And the Tea Partiers certainly can raise some cash (see: Wilson, Joe). An endorsement from Palin can only help with money and would attach national recognition to a largely unknown.

The fight over Sarah has begun. Expect to see more of these kinds of pleas in hot GOP primaries in the coming months.

*** UPDATE *** The Hughes campaign tells First Read they have lobbied Palin and other conservative PACs to get behind them.

"We have been in contact with Sarah PAC and many other conservative PACs," said Laura Grock, spokeswoman for Hughes. None has offered help YET, "but would graciously accept the support of a true Reagan Conservative like Sarah Palin," Grock said.