George Will

CHICAGO -- Illinois' northernmost bit is north of Cape Cod and its southern tip is south of Richmond, Va. Scattered the length of the state, from the Wisconsin border to Kentucky's, are fragments of wreckage from the state party that produced the first Republican president -- who was born in Kentucky and nominated by a Republican Party born in Wisconsin, at Ripon.

In the past four presidential elections, Republican candidates have averaged just 40 percent of the Illinois vote. In 2004 the Republican Senate candidate, a raging resident of Maryland, won just 27 percent of the vote. Judy Topinka, 62, the effervescent three-term state treasurer and Republican gubernatorial nominee against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, thinks she can put Humpty Dumpty together again. Republicans everywhere should hope a new poll is accurate in showing her three points ahead among registered voters.

In California, Republican presidential candidates have not been competitive for three elections. Since 1994, when California Republicans backed an anti-immigrant measure offensive to the Latino population that now is more than one-third of the state's population, Republicans have won an average of just 41 percent of the presidential vote.

In New York, where Republican presidential candidates in the past four elections have averaged just 35 percent, one candidate for the Senate nomination against Hillary Clinton this year has zero political experience and less than zero credibility, having inflated her résumé. And if the state party chairman gets his way, the senatorial candidate will be a former Yonkers mayor who, as a married man, had two children with his unmarried chief of staff, which he says was "ironically" fine because "I didn't have to make an appointment with my chief of staff to go over everything." (He has since married her.) From Illinois, California and New York, Democratic presidential nominees currently receive, without exertion, 107 electoral votes -- 40 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Can Topinka begin the process of making Republicans competitive for Illinois' 21 votes?

If former governor Jim Edgar had sought and won the Republican gubernatorial nomination, he might have been elected: Polls showed him trouncing Blagojevich. In the past 42 years, four Illinois governors -- two from each party -- have been indicted, and the trial of one of them, the most recent Republican, George Ryan, on 22 counts of fraud and corruption, has provided an unwelcome -- by Topinka -- background libretto for what already was a daunting year for Republicans almost everywhere.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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