RFFM.org Commentary by Daniel T. Zanoza
The Republican Party has certainly seen better times in Illinois. In recent years, the split between liberal and conservative Republicans has left the GOP in a state of disarray. However, I believe in 2008 a Republican would have an excellent opportunity to defeat U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in the general election.
Durbin, one of the most partisan members of the United States Senate, has been laying low in recent months. His mean-spirited comments, which drew a comparison between U.S. troops and Nazis, damaged the senior Senator from Illinois and some speculate he has been told by Democratic advisors not to give any more ammunition to a possible future political opponent. Surprisingly, no one from the Republican Party has come forward to challenge Durbin for his seat and, once again, the Illinois GOP may be throwing away an excellent opportunity.
Though I have had concerns about the qualifications of businessman Jim Oberweis in his past attempts to seek public office, I believe he would have a reasonable chance to beat Durbin in a head to head contest. I also believe if Oberweis were to face a liberal challenger in a Republican primary, he would have the support of the GOP's conservative base. That is, of course, if other social conservatives demonstrated political discipline by staying out of the race. Oberweis would be served well by the fact he claims to be pro-life and against homosexual "marriage." He obviously convinced enough of the Party's base to finish second in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary and I could see how social conservatives could close ranks and unify behind an Oberweis senatorial campaign.
Yes, Jim Oberweis could be the first Republican member of the United States Senate from Illinois since the election of Peter Fitzgerald in 1998. Sadly, the political rumor mill is telling a very different story that could lead to more disaster for the Illinois GOP. It is said Oberweis is well under way in his plans to run for the seat of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Hastert has yet to officially announce his retirement, but conventional wisdom says it will only be a matter of time before that decision is made. If Oberweis does decide to seek Hastert's seat, the Republican Party will again shoot itself in the foot.
It is well known State Senator Chris Lauzen has had plans for Hastert's seat and is expected to make an announcement regarding a decision some time this month. If Oberweis challenges Lauzen in the primary and, as expected, a liberal enters that race, we can expect to see more fracturing of the Party and an eventual defeat at the polls for Republicans in the 2008 general election in the 14th Congressional District.
Liberals and Democrats would be more than happy to see Lauzen and Oberweis both enter the race for Hastert's seat. The divide and conquer strategy that has worked so well against socially conservative members of the GOP would, once again, come in play. Oberweis has to be aware of this fact. It happened to him during his last political run and history would only be repeating itself.
I refuse to believe Oberweis would be so cynical as to purposely sabotage the fortunes of his own Party. Most members of the Illinois Republican Party's conservative base believe Lauzen deserves a clear shot at Hastert's seat--if it does become available. That is why one would indeed have to question Oberweis' motives if he decides to enter that race.
As previously stated, there is a simple solution to this political puzzle. Oberweis should run for the U.S. Senate--if he runs for any office at all. But no one says common sense is the motivating factor in the world of politics and, once again, this may be proved in Illinois Republican politics.