Monday, October 20, 2008

No knockout punch in 10th CD debate; neither candidate plays to win- look for Kirk to edge out Seals on Nov. 4

Revised slightly on Monday afternoon at 1:25 pm [See discussion of Bailouts and Vets, below].

10th Cong. District: 1979 to 2008

The Tenth Congressional district has been in Republican hands for almost the last three decades, with the seat held for twenty-one years by Cong. John Porter and the last eight by Cong. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Highland Park). In 2000, Kirk received, initially, the informal support of Cong. Porter and perhaps, as importantly, Porter’s wife in the Republican Primary (which support helped with the township organizations, etc) and when that didn’t put Kirk over the top, Porter officially endorsed Kirk in the last month of the primary campaign-- and Kirk then pulled away from nine other candidates, winning with more than thirty percent of the vote. Kirk prevailed in the general election over then State Rep. Lauren Beth Gash (D-Highland Park) by about two points. Gash has gone on to become sort of the equivalent of a Ward Boss for the Tenthdems.

The 2002-2008 history:

When Bush was more popular, Kirk was a Bush guy and Kirk won easily in 2002 and 2004. However, the 10th CD is now Democratic (53 to 47 for John Kerry in 2004, and probably more Democratic, now), and Dan Seals almost pulled off an upset in the Democratic Tsunami in 2006, losing 53 to 47 to Kirk. Kirk only gave Seals one debate, and Kirk was quite insulated during the run-up to the general election. The result: Seals won that debate with a much better display of his understanding of the issues and presence.

Kirk got ready for Seals and for yesterday’s Debate:

This time around, Kirk is ready for Seals. He has built up a very big lead in funds to spend (unlikely to be offset by the DCCC) and Cong. Kirk has sharpened his speaking skills, again. Further, there seems to be less intensity for Seals the second time around. In the 2006 Kirk-Seals debate at Stevenson high school, there was an overflow crowd in attendance of about 1500, with the majority being Seals supporters. Yesterday’s debate was at the Deerfield High School auditorium, said to hold around 900, and this reporter would estimate about 85% full. As the song goes, the “thrill is gone.”

The LWV format

Yesterdays “debate,” was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Union League Club of Chicago and others. The League’s format was used and it produced a crushingly boring “debate.” Questions were submitted by the audience to the moderator, Cindi Canary, who read them to Kirk and Seal, who took turns responding in 90 seconds to each question. The candidate who responded first had the option of a 30 second reply.

In the League’s format, no real debate is allowed. The quality of the questions was awful, with a heavy dosage of “League,” type questions. Perhaps League members dominate, unfortunately, in the submission of questions. Of course, there are no follow up questions, the candidates can’t ask questions of each other and the moderator simply repeats what she is given, like an unthinking robot, whose repeat requests for the audience to refrain from clapping and cheering are often ignored.

The candidates are allowed to avoid answering questions and throw in their standard boilerplate responses, again and again and again. Both of these candidates are very risk averse in terms of putting themselves in situations where they would face tough, probing questions, so they are pretty happy to have the League format, which has the effect, if not the intent, of giving voters minimal information about the candidates.

The War

Of course, we knew going in that Kirk supported authorizing the President to take military action in Iraq in 2002 and Seals says he would have opposed it if he had been in Congress in 2002. Kirk has been talking about “winding up,” the war for the last year or two, but of finishing the war in a way “we don’t have to go back.” Seals has been talking about a “responsible, phased withdrawal,” and apparently would be fine with the Obama proposed withdrawal of about a brigade a month from Iraq, which would remove most American troops in sixteen months, leaving some undefined number to train, fight Al Qaeda and protect the U. S. diplomats in Iraq. Nothing said yesterday changed our understanding of Kirk and Seals on Iraq.

Kirk and Seals: Anti-Parental Choice?

Kirk emphasized again and again he is a “Pro-Choice [on abortion], pro-environment, pro-teacher Republican.” It goes without saying Seals is all those things, too, as are almost all Democrats.

Of course, by pro-teacher, Kirk and Seals mean they are anti-parent, anti- parental choice or anti-school voucher-school choice. In short, Seals and Kirk are both mindless followers of the teachers unions. Both might upset the teachers unions a little bit and say they are in favor of charter schools, but they didn’t say that yesterday, as they both were engaged in a race for the bottom, in terms of avoiding any notion of competition to improve the public schools. Indeed, in this respect, Obama, who often mentions he is in favor of charter schools, is head and shoulders above these two candidates.


Both said they are pro-Israel, but Kirk said he is more pro-Israel and Seals, for whatever reason, didn’t fight Kirk on that. Israel is a weakness for Seals, but Kirk did not hammer on that yesterday, even though he did in the debate in 2006. Further, it was pretty much as if Iran, North Korea and Russia did not exist, for yesterday’s debate purposes. A pretty provincial crowd.

Gays, Guns, God, Immigration and Abortion

Kirk sometimes emphasizes he is very much pro gun control and pro gay rights, but not yesterday. Perhaps he figures everyone in the 10th already knows that. Again, it goes without saying that Seals, as a Democrat, matches Kirk on those issues. In short, on Gays, Guns, God and abortion, Kirk and Seals are liberal Democrats. Same with the environment.

Although there are slight differences on immigration, e.g., Seals seems to oppose the fence across the southern border and Kirk seems to favor it, neither wants to make a fuss about the issue. Again, slight differences on No Child Left Behind, but neither will make an issue of it.

Off Shore Drilling and oil companies

Seals says Kirk votes to subsidize oil companies and Kirk says no he doesn’t. Kirk says he is for off shore drilling and implies Seals is for sham off shore drilling, but doesn’t make much of that. Both try to out do the other in their preference for alternative energy sources.

Bailouts and Vets

Both Seals and Kirk favor the bailouts, at least as of yesterday. Kirk asserted that Seals had taken the "popular," view and not supported the bailouts. Seals denied that, apparently taking the position that he was just as good as Kirk at ignoring his constituents' preferences [voting against your District is apparently a virtue on the North Shore]. Both imply that they would like to arrest a bunch of “greedy Wall St. capitalists,” but neither is too specific on that.

Seals likes to accuse Kirk of not supporting vets and Kirk essentially says Seals is nuts on that.

Kirk and Seals: Career choices

Kirk likes to take shots at Seals performance at GE Capital and Seals likes to say Kirk has never worked outside of Washington. Kirk had a snappy response yesterday, arguing that when he wasn’t in Congress, he was in the Navy or Naval Reserve protecting “Seals.” Seals defended his performance at GE Capital, saying Kirk didn’t understand the difference between residential and commercial real estate.


Kirk likes to argue Seals would raise the capital gains tax, remove children tax credits, bring back the marriage penalty and perhaps increase other taxes on the middle class. Seals generally denies these charges, especially on Cap Gains, arguing this is one area of disagreement between Obama and him.

Some additional differences were noted yesterday, but none that will account for who wins on November 4, 2008.

The fates of Kirk and Seals

Kirk’ fate depends on how much he has persuaded the 10th CD that he is “Mr. Independent,“ and thus not tied to Bush’s low approval rating and the tanking financial sector and economy.

Alternatively, Seal’s fate depends on how well he has tied Kirk to the War, the opportunity cost of the War in terms of foregone domestic programs and what he characterizes as the “failed Bush policies of the last eight years.” Of course, Seals tried to wrap Obama around himself yesterday, arguing if you want change, you should vote for Obama and Seals.

Who will win: the Obama equation

Pundit Russ Stewart argues Obama will get about 57% of the vote in the 10th CD. Stewart calculates that Seals would need to get 88% of the Obama vote (assuming Seals gets none of the McCain vote) to win. Using Stewart’s paradigm, this reporter estimates that Seals will get 85% of the Obama vote, meaning he comes up short, again, losing to Cong. Kirk 52% to 48%.

Seals and Kirk- something in common

As a closing thought, neither Seals nor Kirk would answer any questions from this reporter after the debate (Similarly, neither would agree to be a guest on “Public Affairs”). However, both spent a few minutes after yesterday’s debate answering questions from a Deerfield High School student. As Dirty Harry would say, a good man knows his limitations and apparently Seals and Kirk are good men, at least in that sense.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at *************************************************************
"Public Affairs," is a weekly political interview show airing in Chicago on CANTV, in the Chicago metro area and in Aurora on Comcast and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can watch the shows, including archived shows going back to 2005, here.
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page now include a show taped Sep. 30 with Cong. Don Manzullo (R-Egan, 16th CD) about his no vote on the bailout, jobs, trade and other issues related to his election contest with Democrat Robert Abboud, a show taped Sunday, Sep. 28, 2008 with State Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) and a show taped on Sunday, Sep. 21,2008 with 16th Cong. Dist. Democatic Nominee Robert Abboud (D-Barrington Hills), two shows featuring clips and interviews, primarily from the Democratic and Republican National Party conventions, go here to watch 2nd Convention clip show and shows with Cook County Cmsr. and Obama Media Team Member Forrest Claypool and much more.