(CNN) – A Democratic victory in a special election to fill the congressional seat held by former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert is a sign of things to come, according to the party. Barack Obama’s campaign says it’s a demonstration of his electoral coattails.
First-time candidate Bill Foster, a physicist, beat Republican Jim Oberweis, a money manager and head of a giant dairy. The national Republican Party spent millions on his behalf.
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Foster’s victory demonstrated to Republican candidates that “Senator (John) McCain, who campaigned with the Republican nominee, cannot save them from defeat this November against strong Democratic challengers, even in districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.”
The race had shaped up to be a presidential face-off of sorts, with McCain stumping for Oberweis and Obama backing Foster.
“You may think you have to wait until November to vote for change. But here in Illinois, you can start Saturday March 8th. That’s when you can vote to send Bill Foster to Congress,” said Obama in a campaign ad for the underdog candidate.
In a statement released by his campaign Saturday night, Obama said "The people of Illinois have sent an unmistakable message that they're tired of business-as-usual in Washington."
Republicans dispute the characterization. “The one thing 2008 has shown is that one election in one state does not prove a trend,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said Saturday. “…The one message coming out of 2008 so far is that what happens today is not a bellweather of what happens this fall.”