A Tea Party Test in Illinois
Ben Smith has a smart preview of today’s primaries in Illinois, and an analysis of which candidates voter anger will help. One storyline that looks likely to be written tonight: the defeat, two weeks after Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts, of “Tea Party” candidates challenging establishment Republicans. Senate candidate Pat Hughes, heavily backed by Tea Party activists ever since Republican frontrunner Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted for cap-and-trade legislation, is trailing by at least 20 points.
But gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski is the more compelling Tea Party candidate, and the one whose final vote total will be watched for some metric of hype versus on-the-ground support. Under the radar, Andrzejewski has capitalized on his good looks, ethnic base and conservative rhetoric to become a Tea Party rock star. “There’s a particular candidate that’s being described as the Scott Brown of this contest,” said Rush Limbaugh of Andrzejewski on the Friday episode of his show. Jim Hoft, the influential Gateway Pundit blogger, has played a key role in convincing the conservative blogosphere that Andrzejwski had a chance and that polls showed him surging.
The most uniquely Tea Party-ish aspect of Andrzejwski’s bid has been his courting of, and endorsement by, Lech Walesa, the former Polish rebel-turned-president, a hero of the Cold War who was memorably dismissive when President Barack Obama joined him as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The Walesa endorsement was a slightly surreal affair.