WASHINGTON--Here's the latest from the Republican National Committee on whether or not RNC chairman Michael Steele has endorsed in the GOP Illinois Senate primary. He has not. (UPDATES FROM THE DSCC AND NRSC BELOW)
I just talked with Gail Gitcho, the RNC press secretary, to clear up the situation regarding the RNC and the Illinois primary.
"Illinois is a targered state for Republicans. It is an important seat and we plan on being fully engaged in the race once we have a candidate," Gitcho said.
"Congressman Mark Kirk is an exceptional leader and clearly is the frontrunner in the Illinois Senate race but the RNC traditionally does not get involved in primaries."
UPDATE 3:40 CHICAGO TIME
A few minutes after I posted the above, I heard from Kathleen Strand, the Chicago based Democratic consultant the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hired to keep tabs on the Illinois senate contest. She sent along a transcript of a WLS Radio Chicago show where Steele was discussing Kirk. Maybe not a formal endorsement, but pretty close.
Radio Host: There is a possibility that with Mark Kirk we might as a state have a balanced representation, we might actually get a Republican to represent the state of Illinois
Steele: That would be a good thing
Radio host: Is the national Republican Party going to financial support Mark Kirk?
Steele: Oh my gosh, yeah! I am so excited about Mark Kirk and his race. We're all kind of sitting around with bated breath as he was making his decision, a very personal decision, a family decision to run for the Senate. But I am very excited about it, I know the new chairman of the party, Pat Brady, is very excited about it, and I think you are going to see from the NRSC and the RNC and people around the country quite frankly, as I travel around the country people are talking about the race in Illinois.
They are talking about the Obama seat as some are calling it. And it is generating its own excitement and I think it's a good thing. It's a good thing for Illinois to have a different opinion, a different persepective on how we govern ourselves and how we manage the affairs of the state. So I think it is important to have a competitive race and a good open opportunity to take that seat and I would just ask that the good people of Illinois give us a fair shot, give Mark Kirk a fair shot to state the case why his leadership is important at this time for the state.
UPDATED 5:43 P.M. Chicago time
After reading Strand's offering, I head from Brian Walsh, the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee:
After the soap-opera-esque political mismanagement that has unfolded for Democrats in Illinois since Blagoevich resigned and national Democrats tried, and failed to recruit Lisa Madigan, it's amusing that they're instead wasting time trying to gin up false narratives on our side. When you consider that their choices now are between an ethically-challenged, mob-connected banker and Blagojevich's former press secretary, clearly the Democrats' political machine hasn't gotten the memo that voters are looking for a change.
"Mark Kirk's record of reform and his reputation for integrity will be critical as we work to restore the respect to the Burris seat that voters in Illinois deserve, and that's why the NRSC is proud to be supporting his candidacy," he said.