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Midterm Buzz: Embracing Kirk

From NBC's Ali Weinberg
Conservative bloggers seem resigned to the fact that their preferred candidate in the Republican gubernatorial race, Adam Andrzejewski, stands little chance of winning the GOP nomination tonight. Some are pushing back on Republican claims that Rep. Mark Kirk is too moderate, having voted in favor of House cap-and-trade legislation. Meanwhile, both sides have plenty to say about the differences between Republican candidates in the California governors' race --including the fact that Federal forces may become involved. And Democrats are still floating an idea -- shot down by Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign -- that the Florida governor might switch party affiliation to Independent to avoid a Republican primary against conservative darling Marco Rubio.

Conservatives have rallied around Andrzejewski, especially after he received the endorsement of former Polish president and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa and the title of  "the Scott Brown of his contest" from radio host Rush Limbaugh. NRO's Stephen Spruiell excerpts from a phone interview he conducted with the candidate, including an exchange where the interview stopped so Andrzejewski could greet supporters:  "'We were pulled over by a Chicago police officer who wanted to shake my hand,' he says sheepishly. I ask him if he's kidding. He says no, he's not, that this is the kind of attention he's been getting since the Walesa endorsement."

Spruiell also includes Andrzejewski's response to the question of why conservatives seem to be backing him over state GOP chair Andy McKenna: ""He calls himself the only outsider in the race. That's a disingenuous statement at best," Andrzejewski said.

Also blogging at NRO, Jim Geraghty makes a distinction between Kirk and DeDe Scozzafava, nominated by leaders in her district's party. "While some conservatives may end up grumbling that they've ended up with a pro-choice candidate who had to renounce his vote on cap and trade… Kirk gets the nomination, he'll have won it the old-fashioned way, by getting Republicans to vote for him."

Geraghty also expresses excitement over the state's Republican gubernatorial primary, noting that while Andrzejewski hasn't gotten much media attention, "I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that if you're a Polish-American in the Chicago area, you heard about it the moment Walesa entered the city limits." Geraghty gives his two cents on the race: "My readers have wildly different preferences; some love Andrzejewski, others dismiss him as "a child"; some prefer Dan Proft, others say they could live with Kirk Dillard. I wouldn't pretend to know each of these candidates inside and out, but none of them scream "general election poison", at least not so far. And particularly not in a year with the wind at the GOP's back (although we can count on President Obama to make an all-out effort in his home state). 

Right-wing blog Hot Air links to Cassy Fiano, a conservative blogger whose views on the Illinois Senate and governor races echo Geraghty's: "Some conservatives think Kirk is too liberal a Republican, but he seems to be similar to Scott Brown: a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. In these times, that should be good enough for us right now… The [gubernatorial] race is likely to be a toss-up for the Democrats, but what about for Republicans? The tea party candidate is clearly Adam Andrzejewski… Dillard is the most moderate of all the Republicans running, and ads are showing clips of him praising Obama. I'd like to believe that Andrzejewski will pull it out, but it still seems unlikely."

In the California gubernatorial race, Geraghty doesn't seem to enjoy the rather unconventional intra-party showdown between Republican candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner. The backstory: Whitman's consultant and advisor, longtime Republican strategist Mike Murphy, wrote an email expressing hope that Poizner, one of Whitman's primary opponents, would leave the governor's race to avoid "spending $20 million beating the other in a primary." Poizner's reaction was to contact various state law enforcement bodies, including the Sacramento FBI, "asking them to investigate whether a crime had been committed."

Geraghty asks, "Really, guys? Really? Calling the FBI over an e-mail encouraging him to consider another run for another office? This isn't even remotely the most threatening comment in California politics in recent years. Back in 2003, during the recall election, California Democratic Party Spokesman Bob Mulholland said that 'Schwarzenegger is going to find out, that unlike a Hollywood movie set, the bullets coming at him in this campaign are going to be real bullets and he is going to have to respond to them.' Maybe this will rebound to Poizner's advantage, but I can't help but suspect that he just put up a big sign that says, 'if I'm this apoplectic about a Whitman adviser, just think of what Jerry Brown will do to me.'"

Geraghty later notes Whitman's sizeable lead over Poizner in a recent McLaughlin & Associates poll, 39% to 12%, making two observations: "With that many remaining undecided, obviously Poizner has room to grow, but the whole calling-in-the-FBI schtick doesn't seem to be the right move."

On the liberal side, the Huffington Post notes that Whitman's own poor campaign performance, PR-wise, may have compelled Poizner to stay in the race, believing he could catch up to her. The Post writes that Whitman came off as "cold, controlling, scripted" to a Sacramento focus group and that her press conferences, "few as they have been, have been disastrous," while "Poizner has regular free-flowing discussions of the troubled state's issues with reporters and others. And the Democratic favorite, Jerry Brown -- who according to the constantly polling Whitman is 10 points ahead of her -- frequently banters and jousts with reporters on the phone and at his appearances as California's attorney general. Given all this, it shouldn't be a surprise that Whitman engaged in a very messy and unsuccessful attempt to clear the Republican primary field."

Liberal blogger Dave Weigel notes Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio's trouncing of Gov. Charlie Crist in two polls, one from Rasmussen and the other from private pollster Tony Fabrizio: "The incredible aspect of Rubio's steady progress is that it has come without paid TV media or a fundraising advantage. Blog buzz, Twitter, Facebook, talk radio, local activism fueled by Tea Parties — all of that has turned Rubio into the sudden frontrunner for a race he was encouraged to drop out of."

Washington Monthly blogger Steve Benen also marvels at the polls showing Rubio's growing popularity, borne mostly of "grassroots sentiment" even as "Rubio hasn't really been campaigning very hard."

And of rumors that Crist might switch parties and run as an independent (which the Crist camp denies), Benen suggests an option that he says "hasn't even risen to the level that the Crist campaign feels the need to address it:" running as a Democrat. Writes Benen: "Campaigns can be unpredictable, but it's hard to imagine the scenario in which Crist recovers and wins this primary. If he wants to hold elected office in January, Crist is apparently going to have to consider alternative plans… I've asked around among Florida politicos about whether there was any chance at all of Crist becoming a Dem, and while no one literally laughed at the idea, no one thought it was a plausible move, either. Crist has some options -- run as an independent, drop out and run for another gubernatorial term -- but joining the Democrats probably isn't one of them, despite the fact that it might offer him his best chance at winning."