Kirk is in Senate race, then out, then maybe

Two days after telling those around him that he would run for Senate, Rep. Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) candidacy is no longer a foregone conclusion.

The confusion caps a whirlwind week in which things appeared to be getting better and better for Republicans. Now Kirk is sending mixed signals about his intentions.

Kirk’s imminent entry into the Senate race was reported widely, including by The Hill, and sources say he was set on running for the seat. Then, the Washington Post reported Friday afternoon that he would no longer run, and sources reached by The Hill confirmed that report.

After the Post’s report made the rounds, though, word began to circulate the Kirk wasn’t, in fact, ruling out a Senate race. Now, sources say, he will talk things over and continue evaluating his options.

A GOP source familiar with the situation said Kirk was upset that the state party has balked at supporting his candidacy after he put out word that he would run. Kirk’s lengthy deliberations led state party chairman Andy McKenna to begin looking at the race.

McKenna was apparently not ready to back down once Kirk decided to get in, as had been expected.

With the state party chairman running and Kirk having cast a big vote with Democrats on the highly partisan energy bill recently, the state party was no longer a cinch to line up behind Kirk.

A rift between party leaders and Kirk that began with his lengthy deliberations now seems to have grown over his mixed signals.

“It’s all been handled very poorly,” the GOP source said.

If Kirk doesn't run, Republicans have much less of a chance at winning the seat, though they would have a candidate in McKenna.

Sources continue to confirm that Kirk did indeed put out word that he would no longer run, but they say he has since changed his mind. The Post has update its report to reflect this.

Kirk’s office could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) announced Friday afternoon that he would not seek a full term in the Senate. That leaves state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) as the only official candidate in the race.

Businessman Chris Kennedy (D) has also been preparing to run for the seat.

National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill as late as Thursday night that Kirk was prepared to run.

“If Congressman Kirk decides to run, and I think he is, I think we can win,” Cornyn told said. “It's a unique circumstance because of the culture of corruption there, both by (former) Gov. (Rod) Blagojevich and those associated with him. I think voters are going to want a clean break, and a reformer like Mark Kirk would run very well and is likely to win.”

-- This story was updated at 4:41 p.m.