CLEARWATER, FL - One of the best-respected faces of Illinois Republicans, former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, rallied the state GOP faithful Tuesday with a familiar message: Turning Illinois red starts with unseating Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.
"It's time to turn the tide in Illinois," he told a few hundred delegates and guests at the state GOP's morning breakfast meeting.
Hastert (R-Ill.) cited the concentration of power in Madigan's hands -- state Democratic Party chair, House speaker, funder of political races.
"If you want to change the Republican Party, you start right here in Illinois and change the House of Representatives in the state of Illinois," said Hastert, whose political protege, House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), would be in line to succeed Madigan if Republicans regain the House.
Hastert's anti-Madigan reference is a familiar theme this summer for Illinois Republicans, who have made "Fire Madigan" their rallying cry going into the fall elections.
On Monday, the state party launched a website (www.firemadigan.com) where trinkets like coffee mugs, golf polos and even dog t-shirts can be purchased, all emblazoned with the "Fire Madigan" credo.
Hastert also touted the most threatened members of the GOP's congressional delegation from Illinois, including U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), whose districts were radically redrawn by Democrats in a bid to reverse Republican gains in the collar counties from 2010.
After his speech, Hastert condemned the "legitimate rape" comment by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO.) but stopped short of calling on him to step down from his nationally watched U.S. Senate race against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO.)