Well, no one should ever accuse Mark Kirk of a lack of confidence.
In fact, he was so confident of his success on this morning's Meet the Press that the NRSC sent out a press release crowing about his performance. Only problem? They sent it out before the show even began:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee--the GOP senate political operation--in an audacious move, declared Illinois Senate GOP candidate Mark Kirk the winner over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in Sunday's "Meet the Press" debate before it happened.
Giannoulias Fails In Debate
"It was plain to see on Meet the Press. Alexi Giannoulias is wrong for Illinois and should not be elected to the United States Senate. For too long America has been on a similar course of more spending, more debt, and a weakened economic recovery. We are on an unsustainable path and the American people don't like what they see."
It's hard to argue that Kirk doesn't have his GOP talking points down--wailing and gnashing over tax increases (note to reality-based voters: it is the expiration of tax cuts, not a tax increase, and one that the Republicans organized) to the top 2% of income earners. Just those top 2%. But watch how David Gregory--who famously rejected the notion of asking journalistic questions--points out that Kirk was very much talking out of the other side of his mouth not so long ago.
KIRK: CNN just did a survey, of economists saying that they should not have a new big tax increase on December 31st. If you look what congressional leaders want to do, they want to hit the US economy with a $900 billion tax increase on December 31st, on top of the ten new taxes that were in the health care bill, on top of the taxes that were in the financial regulation bill, on top of the taxes that were in the August congressional legislation. I don’t think…the key danger here is will our policies increase the chances of double dip recession. If you look at the job numbers, just in the past week, we have a significant danger of that. And taking more money out of the private economy and having the government perform as it has poorly done with the stimulus, I don’t think is the right way to go.
GREGORY: It’s interesting that you say that. You said just a moment ago, if I heard you right, that you were a deficit hawk, a fiscal hawk…
KIRK: That’s right.
GREGORY: …Well, back in 2004, you were part of this Republican /Main Street partnership, and as part of that group, you had a press release on 2004. I’m going to put some of it on the screen:
Today the Republican Main Street Partnership, the largest organization of elected moderate Republicans in the nation, offered six principles for the fiscal year 2005 budget resolution that are designed to put Congress on a path towards a balanced budget.
“These principles” you said then, “stand for the key value that once we adopt a budget, we must have the tools to stick to it,” said Congressman Rep. Mark Kirk. Now here is the key part of it: “Tax cuts should only be extended temporarily and limited to those that are due to expire in 2004—keep going--We simply can’t afford permanent and across-the-board extensions at this time.”
That’s what you said then, when the debt was about one-third of what it was today. Congressman, how can we afford to make permanent tax extensions now of the Bush tax cuts in this climate?
KIRK: Because especially in this climate, we have congressional leaders that are not interested in spending restraint at all. For example, I back spending restraint across the board. At the DOD, like no second engine for the F35 fighter, closing down the Joint Forces Command, across the board reductions. You look at the state of the economy right now, you have to set a priority. My top priority is the deficit of jobs and economic growth. Especially this perception that the United States could be falling behind, especially Asian economies. If we go through all of the tax increases that congressional leaders proposed—and by the way, Congress is going to come back right after the election, in this lame duck session of Congress with a new round of spending in an Omnibus appropriation bill and new tax increases…
GREGORY: But the question, Mr. Giannoulias, is should the tax cuts be paid for?
GIANNOULIAS: This is why this race is so important. This is a fundamental public policy difference between myself and Congressman Kirk. He says he’s a fiscal hawk. Look, the congressman has told some real whoppers in the campaign, but that may the biggest one of all. He voted for every single one of the Bush budgets, which doubled our national debt. He voted to increase his pay six times. He voted for the “Bridge to Nowhere” twice. He voted to raise the debt ceiling four times, and it goes on and on. So Congressman, saying you’re a fiscal hawk doesn’t necessarily make it true, and your voting record proves that it’s not true.
Of course, Kirk conflates letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the top 2% with the tanning salon tax and bank taxes, just to make those low information viewers (read: Republicans) fear an onslaught of taxes to all Americans. And that Omnibus appropriations bill? Would have been unnecessary if the Republicans had allowed items up for a vote during the last session of Congress.
And this performance is considered proving that you're the right candidate? Yeah, right.
UPDATE: I think the Politico may have found the impetus for this sudden fiscal hawkishness on the part of Mark Kirk. A memo penned by Kirk himself was found to fear the dreaded "moderate" label being attached to him--clearly the kiss of death with the
Republican purity trolls, er,...the Tea Party.
The thoughts expressed by the congressman provide a rare look inside the candidate's political positioning as he prepared for a potential primary challenge from the right in an otherwise solidly Democratic state.
The memo also bolsters the image of Kirk as a hands-on conductor of day-to-day campaign operations.
"Eric - Taskers — I am concerned that we are meat on the table for the next moderate victim. Fast work will point the gun elsewhere. I canceled the health care press due to the damage to the moderate label," the e-mail begins.
"We can work FAST with Jason to communicate with conservative elites that we are the only candidate that can take the president's Senate seat, leading to a tough go in the next two months but smart conservatives want the humiliation of the White House when and where it counts — November 2010 in Obama's home state of Illinois," he continues.