TAMPA -- U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk sent a video message to Illinois delegates to the Republican National Convention wishing them well and received a lengthy standing ovation from them today.
Kirk, the state's highest ranking Republican, continues to recover from a serious stroke he suffered in January. In the video, shown at a breakfast for Illinois delegates at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Kirk made it clear that he remains focused on behind-the-scenes strategy for Republican election victories.
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"Never in our Republican life has your party been better funded or better organized to win an election," he said, speaking softly and deliberately from a chair at his Highland Park home.
In the video, Kirk called the November presidential election "one of the most important elections we've ever had."
He urged delegates to support candidates up and down the ticket, and to "remember especially our congressional candidates" noting "the team we have fielded has switched the Illinois delegation from being a majority of Democrats to being a majority of Republicans."
Kirk also praised state House and Senate Republican leaders for "putting together such a strong team."
Kirk has not been physically present at party events and fundraisers this year, but is credited as a driving force behind the scenes.
Under Kirk's leadership, the Illinois GOP has launched a plan he spent months working to fine-tune after his election victory in 2010.
That plan -- the Illinois Victory Program -- aims to maximize resources by using strategically placed volunteer centers to help candidates in races up and down the ticket, including suburban congressional races and Illinois House and Senate races.
Party officials say Kirk spent tremendous time and energy ramping up both physical and monetary support for the Victory program and working with other members of the Illinois delegation to sort out which Republicans would run in which districts in an attempt to avoid costly primary matchups, which he often refers to as "red on red warfare."
The video was one of several released by Kirk throughout his recovery and rehabilitation.
"He looked great," said Michael Menis, a delegate from Inverness. "It was very touching. I wish he was here, but it was nice to see the video."