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GOP Sen. Mark Kirk: Steer Clear of Trump to Win Re-election

Image: GOP Sen. Mark Kirk: Steer Clear of Trump to Win Re-election

Sen. Mark Kirk (M. Spencer Green/AP)

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Tuesday, 02 Aug 2016 12:26 PM Current | Bio | Archive

One Republican senator who’s up for re-election in 2016 says his plan is to distance himself from Donald Trump — and he says his plan is working.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk flatly says he does not support Trump. The feeling must be mutual because Trump called the Prairie State lawmaker a loser during his recent meeting of GOP members in the Capitol. Kirk even goes as far as to say he won’t vote for Trump, in contrast to fellow GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — who rarely mention Trump but say they support him for president.

As to whether Kirk’s year-long position on Trump is paying any dividends, Kirk campaign manager Kirk Artl told me that the senator’s volunteers “canvassed 70,000 doors and the first question was almost always, Where is Kirk on Trump?"

The senator’s position that he was not supporting his party’s presidential nominee, in Artl’s words, “really helped us . . . it’s turning independents into Kirk supporters. Mark decided Donald Trump did not have the temperament to be commander in chief.”

Kirk had been shown in most polls trailing two-term Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth. One recent poll, however, the Basswood Research poll, gave Kirk a slight lead (42 percent to 40 percent) over Duckworth.

As for reaching across the aisle, “He’s not supporting Donald Trump nor is he supporting Hillary Clinton,” said Artl. On Trump, Artl added that Sen. Kirk became resolute after Trump made clear his hard-line position on illegal immigrants and his questioning of whether John McCain’s prisoner-of-war experience in Vietnam qualified him to be a hero.

In 2010, Kirk won the Illinois Senate seat relinquished by Barack Obama to become president a year before. However, in less than a year in his term, Kirk, a centrist Republican and former U.S. House member, suffered a stroke that kept him off the job for more than a year.

His opponent, a decorated Iraq War veteran who lost both of her legs from combat wounds, Duckworth headed the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and later served as assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs under close friend Obama (who recorded a robocall for her in her first winning House race in 2012).

Kirk, 56, is also a veteran, having served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve during the Balkan War in 1999.

As insurgent as Kirk’s stand is, it is not all that unusual for a Republican who has broken with his party’s conservative mainstream as both a House member and senator. Kirk has long taken the pro-choice position on abortion, was an early backer of legal protection for gay Americans, same-sex marriage, and proudly embraced the comprehensive package for immigration reform that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other early Republican backers eventually abandoned.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


 

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One Republican senator who’s up for re-election in 2016 says his plan is to distance himself from Donald Trump — and he says his plan is working.
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2016-26-02
Tuesday, 02 Aug 2016 12:26 PM
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