Kinzinger wins, but primary meddling may come back to haunt Cantor

After a lot of money was spent, a lot of political capital expended, and a lot of political blood spilled, freshman Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger won what many observers considered the nastiest primary of the year so far.  In near final results Tuesday night, Kinzinger defeated 20-year Rep. and fellow Republican Don Manzullo (lifetime American Conservative Union: 95 percent) in the Prairie State’s 16th District.

The defeat for Manzullo came two days before his 68th birthday.  Younger (34) and, according to the ACU, less conservative in his voting record during his one term (ACU rating: 72 percent), Kinzinger rolled up about 56 per cent of the vote by 10:30 p.m. (EST).

But the congressman who may suffer the more lasting scars from the mean-spirited primary in Illinois’s redrawn 16th District may be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who came out for Kinzinger over Manzullo.  Not only did Cantor personally endorse the freshman Kinzinger, but Young Guns Action Fund, a political action committee closely associated with the majority leader, unleashed $50,000 in pre-primary advertising hailing Kinzinger as “an important part of the next generation of conservative leaders” and “a conservative rock in the fight against runaway government spending.”

The fallout from Cantor’s action was evident in the days leading up to today’s primary.  Illinois Rep. Tim Johnson got into the act by delivering a strong endorsement of Manzullo.  The reason was Cantor’s involvement in the race.

“He was so upset with Cantor. He was so upset with the campaign of filth… he wrote it himself,” Manzullo told reporters after Johnson cut a hard-hitting radio spot on his behalf.

But Cantor’s problems will likely be more with conservative organizations.  In the contest with Kinzinger, Manzullo was backed by nearly all of the national conservative groups as well as those in Illinois.  A Who’s Who of conservative organizations—the American Conservative Union political action committee, Gun Owners of America—along with the Illinois Family PAC and most of the local tea party groups—weighed in strongly for Manzullo.

Not sitting well with conservatives is the support Kinzinger received from outside groups such as the Houston-based Committee for Public Accountability, which has opposed Members in both parties it feels violate the public trust, and the Lunchpail Republicans, which has fought Republican Govs. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin over what they consider the hostility of both to labor unions.

Public Accountability’s spokesman Curtis Ellis explained to HUMAN EVENTS that they had put in a substantial amount to defeat Manzullo because they felt he had not lived up to a term limit pledge in his first race (which was not a pledge but just a voiced feeling he would retire in twelve years, Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter told us).

One of the worst-kept secrets among Republicans on Capitol Hill is the uneasy relationship between Speaker John Boehner, Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Cal.)  Boehner, whose PAC gave $5000 to Kinzinger last year, later gave the same amount to Manzullo and, according to his spokesman, explained that when he made the first donation, he did not know Kinzinger was facing a fellow House Member.  McCarthy, also linked to the Young Guns Action Fund, moved quickly to deny he had a hand in its pro-Kinzinger move.

“Congressman McCarthy has no involvement with the Young Guns PAC,” McCarthy spokeswoman Sarah Pompei told us, “and whatever they do is completely independent.”

Cantor, of course, took another course of action.  Although his candidate in Illinois emerged triumphant, the majority leader may yet have to pay a price for helping him to where he is.