Well, this could make things interesting.
Barack Obama might get a race, after all.
Former GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes told Illinois Republicans Monday that he is ''open to the idea'' of taking on the Democrat in the U.S. Senate race -- a move that would pit two eloquent, nationally known African Americans against one another.
''It would be a classic race of conservative vs. liberal,'' said state Sen. Dave Syverson, a member of the panel looking for a candidate to go up against Obama. ''It would put this race on the map in this country -- just for excitement.''
Syverson spoke to Keyes several times Monday and said Keyes did not commit to making the run. The former State Department official and radio and television personality was unable to fly from his home in Maryland to Chicago for a meeting the Republican State Central Committee is holding today to interview potential candidates. [...] Keyes lives in Maryland, but Syverson argues that is not an insurmountable problem, pointing to Hillary Clinton's successful run for a New York Senate seat. ''It's not necessarily where you live as much as who you represent and the views you represent," Syverson said. "He believes that there is a void in Illinois and that Obama certainly does not represent Illinois. And he believes that he would be, if he were to run, much more representative of Illinois.".....
11 step forward to challenge Obama (Chicago Tribune, registration required)
By Liam Ford and John Chase
Tribune staff reporters
Published August 3, 2004, 3:49 PM CDT
The Illinois Republican State Central Committee this afternoon was interviewing 11 people who hope to replace Jack Ryan in the race for U.S. Senate. Some committee members, meeting at the Union League Club in Chicago, said they hoped to find someone to take Ryan's place today. They began by interviewing the candidates in alphabetical order. But GOP leaders appear to be far from settling on one after the most recent favorite, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman, took herself out of the running Monday.
And one committee member said he would ask party leaders to allow a 12th entrant -- Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes, a Harvard-educated former State Department official who was not at today's meeting. Bringing Keyes into the picture could delay a decision. If selected, the Maryland man would have to move to Illinois by Election Day.
The new nominee must be chosen by late August. He would face Democrat Barack Obama in a race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican.
The state committee is made up of 19 representatives from each of Illinois' congressional districts. Their votes are weighted according to how many Republicans in each district turned out in the most recent primary. State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), who has the largest percentage of votes, was pushing for Keyes to be considered....
Well, I suppose if New York can elect a Democratic carpetbagger (and much as I like Hillary, that's exactly what she was), then there's a chance that Keyes might make it here. Mind, the situation isn't quite the same. To be sure, Keyes is a known quantity (which brings its own baggage along for the ride). However, he's also going to be a Republican in a state that's increasingly trending Democrat; he's a extremely conservative person running in a very moderate state (except, you know, on that whole icky gay marriage thing); and he ran very badly indeed here in the last Republican presidential primary in which he was a candidate. To be sure, a primary in which you're being compared to others of your party is quite different in many ways from a general election. (Although I can't imagine Keyes trying to trend toward the moderate middle the way national office candidates generally do.) And one suspects that the carpetbagger issue will have a certain negative influence inside the GOP Central Committee. (And why does that somehow sound like we're talking about the Politburo? But I digress.)
Mind, the very concept that Keyes, a man who has never lived in this state, would be "much more representative of Illinois" than Obama, who was a representative in the state assembly for some years, made me roll my eyes so hard that I think I sprained something. That said, he's theoretically a reasonably bright man -- relatively few people get out of Harvard without a few brain cells functioning pretty well -- so he could get up to speed on state issues, wants and needs fairly quickly, one would think.
The problem with comparing Keyes to Hillary Clinton, in terms of relative carpetbaggerhood if you will, is that the example is turned almost precisely on its head. In Senator Clinton's case, she was coming into a race which had no strongly established challenger on the Republican side; the person running against her didn't have the greatest name recognition even within New York state itself. She also stepped into the race at a much earlier stage, allowing her time to go through the state, make herself familiar to voters in an entirely different way than they thought they knew her as First Lady. In Keyes' case, he'll be coming into a race backed by a party which has been quite publicly disorganized and floundering, so there may be a certain lack of local support. The national GOP has clearly written off this race, so there may be only indifferent support from the national organization. He'll be running against a solidly established candidate -- one, moreover, who has had not only a quite recent national platform on which to get out his message, but who has been campaigning unopposed for a goodly amount of time.
Still, if the GOP wants to get someone with name recognition and their own private fortune with which to finance most of this race, it's either Keyes or Oberweiss. And in either case, the Central Committee will be metaphorically holding its nose to block the stink of picking one of these undesired candidates when it chooses. (They really really don't like Oberweiss.)
So, yes, the next few days will be terribly interesting indeed.Posted by iain at August 03, 2004 05:57 PM