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January 12, 2009

Cornyn: Beating Burris is top priority

Now that Roland Burris will soon be seated in the United States Senate, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn is calling the Illinois Senate race a “top priority” for the party in 2010.

“I fully expect that the voters of Illinois will not soon forget this dark chapter in their state’s political history, just as I also expect voters across the country will not soon forget the arrogant mismanagement of Senate Democrat leaders in recent weeks,” Cornyn said in a statement.

“Rebuilding the public trust in Illinois and re-gaining this Senate seat will be a top priority for Republicans in 2010.”

Illinois has been a reliably Democratic state in recent years, but the never-ending Blagojevich scandal has given Republicans renewed optimism it will become a leading Senate battleground in 2010. If Burris runs for election, many Illinois Democratic operatives expect him to face a competitive primary.

President-elect Obama’s role in the 2010 race will be fascinating, if Burris chooses to run. If Burris faces a contested primary, will Obama endorse the only African-American senator for re-election?

Republicans also will have to make tough decisions, when the time comes, to test their bullish rhetoric. Are Republicans prepared to devote the millions of dollars necessary into Illinois, when they will now have several other expensive open seats to defend in Missouri, Florida and Ohio?

The NRSC’s ultimate decision depends on who emerges as the Republican nominee: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is waiting in the wings, and has a moderate profile that would be an asset in a statewide race.

But after Kirk (and Rep. Peter Roskam), the GOP bench in Illinois is awfully thin. Will the Republican commitment to Illinois be as strong, if a less-than-stellar nominee emerges?