WASHINGTON -- The National Republican Congressional Committee -- which pumped some $1.2 million into the House bid of GOP nominee Jim Oberweis, only to see him lose the seat in Republican hands for decades to Democrat Bill Foster -- will be reluctant to write more checks when the two face off again in November.
And with four Illinois House seats in play in the fall, the House Republicans will also have to deal with presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama, who helped propel Foster to victory.
I've been told the poor performance by Oberweis in Saturday's special election to fill the remainder of the term vacated by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) -- especially in GOP turf -- means he will have a tough time persuading the National Republican Congressional Committee -- the political arm of House Republicans based here -- to give him a second chance. They are wondering if Oberweis will stay on the ballot, and that kind of speculation is not good for Oberweis.
The outside money was important in the 14th Congressional District contest. Foster and Oberweis put together war chests of about $2 million each, each salted with their personal wealth. Foster got in all about $1.4 million from outside groups, with $620,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the rest from the two big labor organizations, SEIU and AFSCME.
The House Republicans also have to grapple with another realization -- that Democratic presidential hopeful Obama provided an enormous boost to Foster and will be a factor in his home state whether or not he is the nominee. Obama chief strategist David Axelrod told me on Tuesday that in Illlinois, "We are going to be as helpful as we possibly can."
"You can't underestimate the Obama effect in this one," said Pete Giangreco, Foster's overall strategist who also handles Obama's direct mail.
Obama cut a television spot for Foster, helped in a direct mail piece, and the Obama Illinois campaign sent out an e-mail to 80,000 names on their list, which yielded volunteers to make 13,000 phone calls. Besides Giangreco, Foster's team included manager Tom Bowen and media consultants Jim Mulhall, a partner at Squier Knapp Dunn, and Keith Kincaid, a senior vice president of the firm.