by Michael Patrick Leahy 18 Mar 2014
Doug Truax, an underdog who campaigned on full repeal of Obamacare, narrowly lost the Republican Senate primary in Illinois Tuesday night. With 94 percent of the precincts reporting, state senator Jim Oberweis, a moderate who wants to keep "a few good parts" of Obamacare, led Truax by 10 percent, 55 percent to 45 percent.
The Chicago Tribune called the results "closer than expected."
A poll released by the Tribune nine days ago showed Oberweis with a commanding 34 percent lead over Truax, 52 percent to 18 percent. But election night results suggest that many undecided voters -- 25 percent in that poll -- swung to support Truax in less than two weeks.
The biggest difference that separated the two candidates on the issues was how they said they would handle Obamacare. Truax wanted to repeal and replace it entirely. Oberweis, in contrast, while stating he wanted to repeal Obamacare, said he also wanted to keep three key features of the law--the provisions that allow children to stay on their parents policies until the age of 26, mandate continued coverage for pre-existing conditions, and permit interstate competition among health insurance providers.
In addition to differences over Obamacare, the candidates were separated by age, approaches to campaigning, and financial resources as well.
Truax, a political newcomer at 43, raised less than $400,000 for his campaign, had $37,000 in cash and was $54,000 in debt on February 26, the last reporting period before the election. Oberweis, a veteran of three losing statewide campaigns at 67 and a multi-millionaire, had $547,000 in cash in his campaign on February 26. Earlier, Oberweis loaned $500,000 to his own campaign, which remains unpaid.
While Truax campaigned diligently throughout the state the entire campaign, Oberweis spent much of the week prior to the election vacationing in Florida.
Truax's strong showing is the second recent indication that candidates who make repealing Obamacare their key issue may drive an electoral tidal wave in 2014. Earlier in March another underdog, David Jolly (R-FL) won a special election over Democrat Alex Sink to represent Florida's 13th Congressional District. Jolly based his entire campaign on opposition to Obamacare.
Oberweis won, as expected. But moderate Republicans who who are soft on Obamacare repeal may want to take heed from this surprisingly close outcome.