Republican hopefuls Manju Goel and Larry Kaifesh say there's reason to believe a November showdown with 8th District Democratic incumbent Tammy Duckworth could have a different outcome than Walsh's in 2012.
The public's impression of the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- isn't the only example, but probably the only one needed to demonstrate that voters will be thinking differently in 2014 than they did in 2012, said Kaifesh, 46, of Carpentersville.
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Two years ago, even legislators were trying to get their arms around the bill, Kaifesh said. But he believes the public is now feeling the effects of the act through the loss or higher cost of insurance policies as well as a loss of jobs.
"The more they find out, the gloomier it gets," Kaifesh said. "And it's only going to get worse. We knew it was going to be a disaster."
Goel, 48, of Aurora, who's running against Kaifesh in the March 18 primary, agrees.
"The failure of Obamacare is at the front of people's minds," she said.
Kaifesh said a continued economic decline in many 8th District residents' lives is another change from the political landscape of 2012. He said the Obama administration is trying to get the public to accept this as a "new normal."
"Tammy Duckworth is out there promoting this 'new normal,'" Kaifesh said. "People are starting to recognize this. The people don't want a new normal. They want jobs. They want opportunities."
Though Kaifesh and Goel agree on the reasons voters might view Duckworth differently this year, the primary opponents obviously disagree over which of them has the better chance not to share Walsh's defeat.
Goel believes her background as a first-generation Indian-American will have a major impact.
"I am a woman and a minority," Goel said. "I will be attracting many people who didn't traditionally vote Republican in the past."
She said there's a potential of about 20,000 Indian-American votes in the 8th District. Among these, she expects to generate a swing of about 18,000 votes since 2012.
Kaifesh believes there are a significant number of independent voters who chose Duckworth last time ready to vote Republican this time.
While Kaifesh said the endorsement of the Indian American Republican Organization, Goel counters that more than 90 percent of the signatures on her nominating petition are from Indian-Americans living in the 8th District.
Kaifesh, a U.S. Marine who served multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the factors that make him the better candidate are credibility and leadership.
"I have a track record of leading and being a selfless servant," Kaifesh said. "I know the issues. This isn't something I'm just jumping into."
Kaifesh also challenges Goel's conservative credentials for taking Democrating ballots in 2008 and 2012.
Goel responded that that doesn't make her less conservative, as even Ronald Reagan began his political career as a Democrat.
Kaifesh said Reagan and the Democratic Party went their separate ways in the early '60s, and questioned why a candidate claiming to have been inspired by Reagan in the '80s would choose a Democratic affiliation in the 21st century.
But both Republican candidates agree that Walsh himself may have been the reason some voters chose Duckworth before.
While Walsh enjoyed a national spotlight as a freshman congressman, Kaifesh said there was a stridency there that might have put some people off.
"I listen more than I talk," Kaifesh said.
Goel said both of this year's Republican candidates are also free of the "deadbeat dad" allegations that plagued Walsh's campaign due to a dispute between him and his ex-wife over child support payments.
While both Goel and Kaifesh strongly claim to be the better candidate for the general election, they agreed that their stated positions on the issues and a sharing of conservative values would allow each to support the other against Duckworth.
The 8th District is roughly centered in Schaumburg and includes parts of Northwest Cook, eastern Kane and central DuPage counties.