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Illinois Republican Party focuses on keeping congressional seats

Illinois Republican Party Chairman PBrady

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady

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Updated: October 24, 2012 6:35AM

Talk about irony.

This weekend, and pretty much every weekend until the election, Chicago area Democrats will take the Ronald Reagan Expy. west to Iowa.

Just as they did in 2008, they are headed to the Hawkeye state to talk about the Man from the South Side.

Who’s going? From the looks of the Barack Obama website, a small army from Cook County all the way to Lake County, including die-hard door-knockers from the 1st, 2nd, 42nd, 46th, 47th and 48th wards to Evanston, Downers Grove, Des Plaines and Libertyville.

If the Illinois Dems are taking to the road in neighboring battleground states, what about Illinois Republicans rolling down the Reagan highway to trumpet Mitt Romney?

“No,” said Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady by phone on Friday.

Is that because Romney is viewed as a goner?

Absolutely not, insists Brady. It is instead, he argues, a matter of emphasis. “The fact that Obama is going to Iowa at all is testament to the fact that . . . states such as Iowa and Wisconsin, now in play, were nowhere near the radar last time.”

But his focus is in keeping the ground Republicans gained two years ago, when five Democratic congressional seats in Illinois were lost to a Tea Party insurgency. And an aggressive push by the state GOP under his leadership to target voters and turnout.

“We’re totally focused . . . on our congressional races,” Brady told me by phone Friday, referring to the congressional seats held by Bob Dold, Adam Kinzinger, Randy Hultgren, Bobby Schilling and yes, even Joe Walsh. Add to that Judy Biggert.

According to Brady, 85 percent of the state GOP’s effort is targeted to those races.

“All of our resources, money, victory centers,” he said, are set up as they were two years ago.

But, I ask, what about Romney? And the fact that even Republican pundits such as David Brooks, Peggy Noonan and Bill Kristol have been scathing in their assessment of Romney’s missteps and the management of his campaign?

“The criticism by Kristol, Brooks and Noonan has some validity to it . . . Yes, it’s been a bad week,” Brady conceded. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But at this time in 2008 [with McCain and Palin] it was close to over.”

Not so, this time, he says, despite “Democrats pounding this narrative.”

As of Friday, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls had Obama with an almost four-point lead.

When I caught up with Brady, he was at the gym training for a half Ironman triathlon. “Eight years ago, I trained and didn’t finish,” he said with a laugh. The 93-degree heat did him in — a factor out of his control.

Elections are triathlons on steroids.

And yes, loaded with factors out of the control for either candidate. Things like job reports and financial markets and foreign affairs.

“It’s nowhere near being over,” said Brady.

Yes, but the finish line is near.

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