When it comes to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, the movie might be called "Sex Degrees of Separation."
Admittedly, the nation's cable-fueled interest in Illinois politics expectedly waned after the resignation of Gov. Rod Blagojevich; his wife's exit as a contestant on a reality TV show; and the announcement by truth-challenged Roland Burris, the well-meaning mediocrity selected to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, that he won't run for a full term next year.
So now the race is a total muddle with only one sure thing: moderate Republican congressman Mark Kirk, who announced his candidacy Sunday, is supported by his newly ex-wife. This does serve as a reminder of the complexity of passions linked to this seat.
Mark and Kimberly Vertolli-Kirk, an attorney and graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, met while they were on intelligence duty at the Pentagon. And she did live with him for a period after he won the suburban Chicago seat long ago held by Donald Rumsfeld. But then she returned fulltime to Virginia in 2006. Several months ago, they were divorced.
Thus, one had to do a double-take Monday, especially given the recent sex scandals involving prominent Republicans Mark Sanford and John Ensign, when Kirk's formal announcement included a cameo appearance by his now ex-wife. In a move worthy of the late Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan's stagecraft director, or more recent political maestros such as David Axelrod, she surfaced briefly from Kirk's childhood home, leaned over his should and announced, "I support him 100 percent. He'll make a great senator," then departed, no questions taken. Cecil B. DeMille would have been proud.