GOP hungrily eyes Hare's seat

Republicans are optimistic about their chances of winning an Illinois House seat long held by Democrats.

Illinois’s 17th congressional district, currently held by Rep. Phil Hare (D), is listed as “Democratic toss-up” by independent political handicapper Charlie Cook.

And the national GOP political arm decided to bolster its fresh “Young Gun” candidate, Bobby Schilling, after the Republican challenger won an endorsement from the conservative-leaning Chicago Tribune and an infusion of cash from an outside organization.

The National Republican Congressional Committee's (NRCC) independent expenditure operation opted to inject $350,000 into the blue-collar district that voted for President Obama in 2008 with 57 percent of the vote, and Democratic presidential candidate John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Kerry: 'We can't get where we need to go' in climate fight if China isn't joining in MORE in 2004 with 51 percent of the vote.

The ad buys will likely focus on runaway spending, seizing on recent comments that Hare made in which the sophomore Democrat called the national debt a “myth,” a source with the NRCC told The Hill.

Democratic campaign sources argue that Hare’s comments have been taken out of context, however.

But in a year that could be a wave for Republicans, the GOP is doing everything to highlight missteps by Democratic opponents.

With fewer than 30 days until Election Day, Republican operatives say Schilling is well-positioned to win the race. A small-businessman and father of 10, Schilling has $425,000 cash on hand.

Conservative 501(c)(4) organization the American Future Fund bolstered Schilling’s campaign recently with a $500,000 ad buy in the district.

Democrats acknowledge that this is one race that will be a “tough one,” according to a source with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

The DCCC also recently put $90,000 into an ad buy attacking Schilling for wanting to send jobs overseas, a charge Schilling has refuted.

But Hare remains determined in the race. His campaign has run advertisements attacking Schilling for having failed to pay taxes on several occasions.

Schilling’s camp has responded in kind, demanding that Hare remove the ads, which it says are misleading and inaccurate.

Still, it remains a fight to the finish, though Democrats says Hare will pull through in the end.

“Try as they might, Republicans are not going to be able to seal the deal for Bobby Schilling. While Illinois voters know Phil Hare is a fighter for the middle class, they’re learning more every day about Bobby Schilling’s shocking plans to raise Social Security and Medicare taxes while also helping corporations to ship American jobs overseas. We are confident Phil Hare is going to win in November,” Gabby Adler, DCCC Midwestern region spokesman, said in a statement to The Hill.