Eyes on Illinois on Tuesday night

Greg Nash

Illinois' primary is today — and most of the action is on the Republican side, as the GOP looks to regain its footing after a rough 2012 campaign.

The Land of Lincoln has one of the most gerrymandered House maps in the country, so there aren't a ton of competitive federal races. The biggest one to watch is in Rep. Rodney Davis's (R-Ill.) swing district, where both he and the candidate establishment Democrats want to face him in the fall have somewhat competitive primaries.

Here's a rundown of what to watch when polls close this evening at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

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TOP RACE: RODNEY DAVIS

The freshman congressman won his downstate Illinois swing seat in 2012 by slightly more than 1,000 votes and is a top Democratic target this election. He's expected to cruise past attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold (R) in Tuesday's elections, but how big his margin is will hint at how much he's consolidated the GOP base in the district.

The contest to face Davis may be closer. Former judge Ann Callis (D), who has the backing of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, seems to have the edge against University of Illinois Professor George Gollin (D), a favorite of some liberal activists in the district. 

If she wins, the race is likely to be a top Democratic target this fall. But Gollin, who has won the endorsements of some local newspapers,  isn't seen by Washington Democrats as a strong candidate. In 2012, another liberal activist defeated Durbin's preferred candidate in the Democratic primary before narrowly losing to Davis.

WHICH REPUBLICAN WILL FACE QUINN FOR GOVERNOR?

Wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner (R) has outspent his Republican opponents by a wide margin and polls have shown him with a comfortable lead. Rauner is the establishment's favorite, but how well he does after unions spent more than $3 million to destroy his name will hint at how strong he might be in the general election.

The race is perhaps Republicans' best chance at winning a governor's mansion in 2016. Quinn won his last race with less than 50 percent of the vote and is unpopular in the state. While he avoided a serious primary challenge this time around, he's still very vulnerable in a general election.

WHO WILL FACE DURBIN?

Dairy magnate and Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis (R), a wealthy perennial candidate who has lost races for a number of seats, appears to be ahead of Doug Truax (R), a more centrist candidate that some D.C. Republicans had talked up as a potential threat to Durbin in a big GOP wave year.

If the conservative Oberweis wins the primary, as expected, the race is all but over — but he's got the money to air plenty of attack ads. Durbin would be a heavy favorite against Truax as well, but the race would be different against the more centrist but less wealthy candidate.

WHO ARE THE NOMINEES IN THE GOP REACH DISTRICTS?

Republicans will also select their candidates to take on Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.). Both Democrats represent Democratic-leaning suburban districts — President Obama topped 57 percent of the vote in both — but aren't known as stellar campaigners and could be vulnerable if a GOP wave does develop. 

Who their opponents are could determine whether their races come on the map. Healthcare consultant Manju Goel (R) and Marine reservist Larry Kaifesh (R) are vying to face Duckworth, with a super-PAC funded by a man who spent heavily against Duckworth in 2012 backing Goel. 

Establishment Republicans are supporting Illinois state Rep. Darlene Senger (R) in her bid to face Foster. Senger is the favorite in the primary, but she has to defeat three Republicans to win the nomination. 

LOOKING AHEAD TO NOVEMBER

Two former one-term congressmen, Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), are seeking rematches for the seats they lost in 2012. The races are the two best pick-up opportunities for the GOP in the state. 

Both districts went strongly for President Obama in 2012 — the district where Dold lost to Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) was a 58 percent Obama district, while the district where Schilling lost to Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) gave Obama 57 percent. But there will likely be Democratic turnout dropoff in a midterm election and Republicans are bullish about both of their candidates, especially Dold.