Chicago-area developer Patrick Hughes is trying to make himself the credible alternative to Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois's GOP Senate primary, and he has now released a poll that shows there is room for such a candidate.

Hughes’s poll shows Kirk leading him 24 percent to 11 percent in a head-to-head matchup. In a seven-candidate field, Kirk gets 23 percent of the vote.

The pollster, Verne Kennedy, makes that case that despite Kirk’s name recognition (65 percent, with 37 percent able to form an opinion of Kirk), his numbers are low.

In fact, Kirk gets just about every vote among those viewing him favorably (27 percent). The poll does, however, show he has plenty of work to do in getting known to voters. It also tested some of his less-conservative traits and found that GOP primary voters overwhelmingly differ with his yes vote on the cap-and-trade energy bill and his pro-abortion rights stance.

Kirk has recently started moving to the right on cap and trade, saying he was voting the interests of his district in the House and that he would oppose the bill as a senator.

There is little doubt that a conservative challenger could give the centrist Kirk fits. The question is whether there is someone able to give voters that option. Hughes is the early frontrunner to take up that mantle.