CLUB FOR GROWTH DEMANDS FEALTY…. Mark Kirk, say hello to the repeal trap.

GOP Rep Mark Kirk, who’s running for Obama’s Illinois Senate seat, was one of the earliest to vow to roll back reform. Today, however, he repeatedly refused to say whether he’s still on board with repeal, claiming only that he opposes certain aspects of the bill.

Now the Club for Growth, the powerful, well-funded conservative group, is ripping into Kirk for his sudden indecision, and making it clear that they expect him to live up to his promise.

“He said that he’s going to do this,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly just said by phone. “We expect him to live up to his pledge.”

Kirk no doubt realizes he’s in a bind. This year, in Illinois and every other state in the Union, the Affordable Care Act will extend tax credits to about 4 million small businesses, protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, restrictions on rescissions, eliminations on lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits, free preventive care, and a new benefit that allows young adults to able to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26 years old.

These benefits are likely to be especially popular in Illinois — President Obama’s home state.

The right is demanding that every Republican candidate promise voters that he/she will vote to get rid of all of these new benefits — no exceptions. In Kirk’s case, he actually signed a pledge to that effect, thinking it would boost his fundraising and his primary prospects.

And now he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

As we’ve been talking about, the goal is to put Republican candidates in a box. Democrats are going to ask candidates like Kirk, “Are you really going to fight to repeal protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions? Are you really going to take coverage away from 32 million middle-class Americans? Are you really going to take away breaks for small businesses?” If he says “no,” he alienates the GOP activists who will settle for nothing but a full repeal. If he says “yes,” he alienates the mainstream electorate.

Dems have set a repeal trap. Kirk’s leg is already caught in it.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.