By Phillip Stucky
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk dumped Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump last month, and says that decision is paying off.
Kirk began his anti-Trump campaign last month, when he launched an ad stating Trump “is not fit to be commander and chief.” The ad featured Kirk’s stance as the first Republican to support a vote on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination for the Supreme Court.
“I find Donald Trump’s belief that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is incapable of fairly presiding over his case is not only dead wrong, it is un-American,” Kirk stated publicly when he took back his endorsement of Trump last month.
Kirk told CNN his decision “helped because I am a very independent voice for Illinois. I want to make sure that people know that I always put Illinois first.”
Donations and support increased markedly after the decision, Kirk told CNN.
Despite his vocal disapproval of Trump’s statements, Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth still tried to tie Kirk to Trump.
“Mark Kirk is (using) the exact kind of rhetoric as Donald Trump and he just needs to own it and stop lying about it,” Duckworth told CNN.
Kirk belongs to a group of Republican senators fighting to be reelected in November. Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey are in tight races.
Former President George W. Bush, along with the Senate Leadership Fund and a Koch-backed PAC, invested heavily in key Senate races. Party leaders fear losing control of the Senate, the most vulnerable chamber for Republicans.
If Trump does become the nominee, it will be important to maintain a majority in both houses of Congress if Republicans want to stop the shift of the Supreme Court to the left.