The special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. is Tuesday, and Tuesday we will ascertain what one grassroots campaign, with the help of a few conservative blogs like this one and little else, can do to fight The Machine.

We’ve covered Republican candidate Paul McKinley, who faces Democrat Robin Kelly tomorrow, since his time with The Broke Party, a group he formed that said, “we’re not Republican, we’re not Democrat, we’re broke.”

LI reported on his protest of ABC news in Chicago for refusing to cover the eminent domain fight in his community over land that was being redeveloped by political cronies of The Machine. I observed him jump into middle of the historic African American Bud Billiken parade that Barack Obama shunned while in town for political fundraisers.

It has been infuriating to see how handily local media personalities like Fox’s Mike Flannery slapped down McKinley for daring to run for office as an ex-offender.

It has been par for the course to see the Chicago Tribune and local media stations cover for Kelly — they have their part in The Machine down to an art.

It has been something else to watch the cold shoulder Illinois Republican operatives gave him as he attempted to jolt a little life into their moribund shell of a party. The RNC could use McKinley as a case study, shred their entire report on how to reach out to minorities, and yet he has not heard a peep from the party.

It has been eye-opening to observe “conservative” radio hosts in the Chicago area ignore him, while bigger and better names have him on as repeat guests across the country.

It has been frustrating to see columnists who decried The Machine from their desk chairs leave McKinley’s name off of their pages week after week.

It has been hard to see those who say to him, and to the few of us covering him, “give up, what chance does he have.” More of a chance than if we never tried.

Through it all McKinley has let the slights and the looks roll off his shoulders — as an ex-offender, he deals with worse on a daily basis. That’s a lesson I haven’t yet fully learned.

It has been more than encouraging to see the reception given him, in person and in particular on his facebook page, from the left tells us would never support a black, ex-offender: the rural farmers, the inner-city “broke, busted, and disgusted,” the well-off, and the intellectual — all these groups have embraced McKinley and his unabashedly conservative message in different ways.

As I have observed McKinley at countless protests, candidate forums, and on the campaign trail, I have come to believe his message is the only future for conservatives like me. I have seen him take on the left, the right, the media, and the jaded.

If you’re like me, and I know that many of you are, you feel more in common with a black, ex-offender, bible-quoting inner-city street activist than a Boehner, a Mark Kirk, or [insert GOP official here].

McKinley put a graphic on his facebook page this afternoon that reads “Tuesday we see what a Grassroots Campaign, with $10,000 from you, Can do to The Machine. THE FIGHT HAS BEGUN.”