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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Josh Kalven at Progress Illinois has the story on the somewhat fatuous claims made by Republican Mark Kirk against the Democratic Stimulus Package, which includes such gems as complaining — you cannot make this stuff up — that the stimulus package funds bars but not casinos.

The point is not really the message, however, but the messenger. Kirk is one of the more moderate Republicans in the House. He hails from Barack Obama’s home state, and is one of the few remaining House Republicans to represent a district with a Democratic-leaning electorate (the PVI of Kirk’s district is D+4). He is reportedly considering a run for the Senate in 2010 in a state not particularly known for its fiscal conservativism.

If there were literally any Republican in the country whom you think might support the stimulus — or at least stayed out of the way until it came time to vote — you’d think it might be Mark Kirk. But instead, he’s leaking talking points to the Weekly Standard.

I don’t necessarily think that Barack Obama should drop his bipartisan posturing, which might be important for positioning himself vis-à-vis the Republicans later on: by defining his position as the reasonable and centrist one, Obama (if he gets the optics right) allows the Republican position to become unreasonable, extreme and partisan.

But as a matter of practice, the elasticity of Republican demand on the stimulus package is liable to be very low. They have, as I noted weeks ago, few solid tactical reasons to throw their support behind the stimulus, and if the relatively high proportion of tax cuts in the administration’s proposal kept them shell-shocked for a couple of weeks, that era of good feelings is now apparently exhausted.

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