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Obama Vs. Keyes In Illinois

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Alan Keyes, former Ambassador, US Senatorial candidate in Maryland, and US Presidential candidate, has decided to move to Illinois to challenge seemingly unbeatable Democrat Barack Obama for the US Senate.

Keyes is very conservative, and will likely excite his base. However, Obama is a moderate who has already excited his base by giving a powerful (and well-received) keynote address at the DNC in Boston.

Keyes will, IMO, be lucky to get 40% of the vote in November. Obama is nearly unbeatable.

However, Keyes is a master-debater and orator. If Obama concedes to the seven debates he has promised to participate in, he is only a gaffe or two away from making this a tight race.

Regardless, a black person will be the next Senator from the great state of Illinois. There have been few black Senators in our nation’s history. Whoever wins will have achieved something noteworthy.

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About RJ

  • Don’t get too excited over Obama Whamma. If he wins it will only be a result of Keyes getting in late. Despite the media fawning over Obama at the Dems moonbat parade he isn’t exactly the “star” he is made out to be. The fact is even in his States primary he wasn’t the first choice.

    But in the weeks leading up to the election, back when multi-millionaire candidate Blair Hull led the pack of six candidates, polls showed a mere one-third of African-American voters had decided on Obama. It wasn’t until Hull’s campaign imploded, after revelations of a contentious divorce, that Obama’s ambition to become the Senate’s lone black member was dubbed a historic movement.

    In the current post-primary period — described by one Chicago journalist as the time when “politicians hug each other in brotherhood after months of stabbing” — Stroger and Rush now stand firmly behind the Democratic nominee, even if it is Obama.

    They are not alone. Some African-American colleagues who served with Obama during his seven-year tenure in the state legislature are now also grudgingly supporting him after they endorsed other candidates or remained neutral in the primary.

    “Anybody but Obama,” chimed one prominent black legislator, who asked not to be named, a week before the election.

    Rising star my ass. One of two things happened, his 7 year stint in congress has been deemed useless by his colleagues, or he has pissed off a lot of people along the way.

    Here is a blog that has been tracking this alleged “star.” Robert Novak has a nice peice in the Chicago Sun-Times detailing why the Dems choose Obama Whamma.

  • This is a stupid comment. Yes, it’s true that Obama was still a virtual nobody before Blair Hull (the anointed domestic abuser, millionaire choice of the Democratic leadership) self-destructed early in the Democratic primary once his divorce records came out.

    However, the fact remains that Obama went on to dominate the primary and has now staked his claim as one of the most popular politicians in the country (and probably the most popular in Illinois). He’s a rising star and he’s built up a lot of support and influence in a few short months.

    RJ’s right. Keyes has no chance in Illinois — he’s too over-the-top, pompous, and humorless to sell his uber-conservative agenda to a state that’s overwhemingly Democratic. No Republican holds a significant statewide office here. It will make for interesting TV since Keyes has already alluded to dramatic debates, but Obama will more than be able to handle the bluster. He’s confident in his own skin and can run rings around Keyes when it comes to policy wonk specifics since he’s served in Illinois politics for years, understands the electorate, and has had months to study up on the national and local issues that will be the deciding points for the election. Especially on TV, Obama’s cool eloquence, controlled passion, and mastery of public policy will make him the far superior debater to Keyes, who is certainly a better speaker than Jack Ryan would have been. Keyes’s stark language and invective may play well on talk radio, but even his acceptance speech for the nomination seemed like off-putting overkill — he was shouting about God and abortion and sweating profusely under the lights. This style of oratory has not worked well in televised debates and will alienate moderates, women, and minority voters.

    Keyes’s talk-radio blowhard act won’t play well either in the Chicago area or in the rural/Southern areas of Illinois that have generally not been the friendliest to black candidates. All of the early interviews with Keyes have been rough as well — he’s been brusque with the chirpy local news anchors, he’s been unable to even name cities in Illinois when asked, and his central theme in every speech or interview has been abortion (he’s using the word “infanticide”). Keyes himself has said that the main reason he got into the race was a vote in the Illinois Senate where he alleges that Obama voted against a bill requiring that doctors halt any abortions where the fetus was born alive during the procedure. It’s been a long time since there’s been a Senate race where abortion rights were the central issue, and it’s a losing issue in Illinois (which is overwhelmingly pro-choice). Keyes also has gotten notably lukewarm to nonexistent verbal support from the big dogs in Illinois politics like Dennis Hastert.

    The biggest threat to Obama is his own stardom at this point. The more voters read and hear the adulation of him in the press and the perception that his election is fait accompli, the more there’s a potential for a backlash against the new Golden Boy. But Obama’s too humble and hungry to let that happen, I think. He’s really worked hard to get out there to the rural areas of Illinois even after his star turn at the Democratic Convention (save for a few days campaigning nationally for Kerry-Edwards) and he’ll devote all his time to the state of Illinois now. Keyes will be playing catch-up and will never be able to overcome Obama’s headstart in campaigning and developing goodwill among potential voters. I also think Alan’s personality will work against him in that regard, since he’s not the most personable candidate. 1980s style conservative orators in the William F Buckley model — which Keyes very self-consciously adopts in his verbal and physical affectations while speaking (complete with grabbing the lapel and gazing dismissively to the side after delivering a pointed remark), mixed with a little bit of MLK vibrato — don’t play well in the era of retail politics.

    And not to pile on, but Obama already has the largest war chest of any Senate candidate in Illinois electoral history, raising over $10 million this summer. Keyes still owes money from his previous campaigns in Maryland and the moderate donors who were alienated by Jack Ryan’s conservative views and weren’t ponying up money even before the scandal aren’t going to be sold on Keyes and his even more conservative views (abolish the income tax, abolish federal education, outlaw abortion, abolish gun control, end all affirmative action anywhere). The fundraising problems of the Illinois GOP will only be compounded by the lingering internal resentment over the Ryan scandal and the rift between the small conservative wing of the GOP and moderate GOP leaders that will only be exacerbated by the choice of Keyes.

    Bottom line: it’s a blowout. Obama wins by 15-20% guaranteed. National Republicans and the Bush campaign won’t invest any time or money in the state.

  • One more thing:

    The local news surveys are already showing 73% of Illinois voters surveyed don’t think it’s appropriate for Alan Keyes to run for the Senate having never lived in Illinois.

    All Obama would really need to do for an ad is play the video clip of Keyes pontificating about Hillary Clinton a few years ago where he calls her a carpetbagger who’s “destroying federalism” — an example of Keyes’s unusually stilted, akward and formal choices in language that won’t connect with average voters who don’t read The National Review — and says that he’d never, ever consider doing such a thing himself. Obama’s above that kind of politics and will stay positive, but I’d run that ad if I were his campaign manager. No commentary, just the clip.

    I wouldn’t go negative on his failure to pay income taxes, but it’s hard for him to have much moral authority on the issue of tax policy with that.

    That is all.

  • Bob may already know about battle royales, but I will describe them for the benefit of others.

    During slavery, white people had various ways of abusing human chattel. There were slave jails. Rapes. Beatings. Amputations of body parts, usually fingers or ears. Cutting off part of a slave’s foot was also pretty common. It was supposed to keep slaves from running away. If I remember correctly, the male lead in Roots was lamed. A favorite way to abuse slaves was to have them fight each other. White folks would set up a ring and have slaves go at each other, bare knuckled, until one was unable to continue or dead. Often, the favorite was a ‘good,’ ie., submissive Negro from the area used to punish ‘bad,’ ie., rebellious, Negroes, by the slave owners.

    Alan Keyes has volunteered himself, probably at the urging of the far Right white people who consider him their pet darky, for a battle royale. It is a measure of his self-hatred that he is foolish enough to do so. It is a measure of just how deeply the GOP is mired in Confederate era thinking that there are people who think the battle royale is a good idea. Actually, there is probably not a worst way to alientate African-Americans and confirm racism in the Republican party.

    Considering there is no rational reason for Keyes to be running for office in Illinois — except to prove he is utterly depraved — the battle royale will probably not come off. Still, there are lessons we can learn from this episode.

  • Eric Olsen

    I’m for the smart black guy.

  • I’m not entirely comfortable with the GOP’s artificial diversity (hell, even tokenism) in choosing between Keyes and Barthwell either, but I think it ultimately speaks to how scared they are of Obama. I think they’ve basically decided that Obama will dominate the black and moderate vote unless they found someone of color, no matter who it might be. Plus, I think they’d feel better with a black face attacking Obama’s personal biography, especially with the aura surrounding him now. So I’d say that Mac Diva’s history might apply there. There is a scorched-earth quality to importing Keyes to run this race, especially since the primary theme is abortion. One almost thinks that it’s cathartic for the extreme right wing of Illinois politics to lose, but lose spectacularly while voicing their fears and misgivings. The outgoing conservative Senator, Peter Fitzgerald, has already been quoted saying that while Keyes might not win, he’ll discuss the social issues that the Illinois GOP has neglected. I think they view Keyes as “passionate” (read: angry) and “articulate” (read: pompous), because there’s this insidious unspoken (and incorrect) assumption that Obama is those same things, an angry, loud black man. That strategy will ultimately backfire since Obama’s campaign is not about anger and is far more moderate than the GOP assumes — he’ll connect with all sorts of voters, some of whom haven’t ever known a black person closely, much less voted for one. The Illinois GOP is also afraid that having an angry, rich white man in the Peter Fitzgerald/Jack Ryan/Jim Oberweis mode challenge Obama aggressively would seem insensitive, so perhaps bringing in someone who’s largely become politically irrelevant and a fringe commentator in the media to run this race smacks of desperation and calculation to me as well. I think the Illinois GOP has as one of its goals to make Obama look less personable to black voters, whom he’ll undoubtedly win, in order to reduce overall turnout and his future support in the state. Dick Durbin, the senior Senator from Illinois, called it “bringing in a hitman” and I agree with him that the ploy will fail.

    The bottom line is that the winner of this race will be the first black male Senator in the history of the Union, which is historic in and of itself. The fact that the two candidates and debaters are black and will receive attention for their considerable skills in argument is noteworthy as well and will challenge plenty of stereotypes (even as some of us like Mac Diva and I worry about the reason for the attention in the first place). I should caution that calling Keyes “depraved” invokes a moral language I’m not comfortable with since the upcoming race will feature plenty of moralism from Keyes’s side. Resorting to that kind of language only feeds into the desperation of his campaign and avoids the issues that Obama constantly reiterates his focus upon.

    I should point out, though, that Keyes is a noted maverick and the GOP knows that by choosing him, they’re choosing someone who will not be anyone’s puppet and will fire away with his black-and-white (no pun intended) positions on abortion, taxes, education, and race. He wouldn’t have been the choice if anyone thought they had a chance of winning the race. They’re really trying to stir up the waters and knock the Golden Boy Obama down from his pedestal a bit by hoping Keyes’s debating style will unsettle what they view as Obama’s as-yet-undue princely demeanor. This is an old-fashioned political hardball kamikaze mission because the Illinois GOP realizes that Obama’s stardom could carry the Democrats to a clean sweep of Congressional and local races in November as well. Keyes has no illusions about why he’s been chosen nor do I think he cares. I honestly believe that he is morally opposed to Obama’s positions and views this campaign as a crusade, particularly on the issue of abortion. He’s using this pulpit for a reason — and not just to revive his flagging book sales and talk radio career, as the speculation went during his vetting. Keyes has promised “a fight like America has never seen” and invoked Lincoln-Douglas — I think he’s arrogant enough that he does view his speech-making as historic and will leave nothing off the table. If you enjoy politics like I do, this race will be historic for the stark constrast between the two candidates and perhaps even the scorched-earth tactics of a desperate party. I think Obama will still come out of it looking even better for staying above the level of inflammatory discourse Keyes will offer and for winning by a historically wide margin.

    I should say, though, that the talk of Obama being the “First Black President” is premature and counterproductive. Obama himself has basically blown off such questions in interviews and said he has a lot of work to do to make the Senate, which is the right answer and the right approach. He’ll certainly have a long career ahead of him as one of the most respected voices in the Senate (like his mentor Paul Simon) if he so chooses and I could certainly see him as a potential VP pick in a more progressive America three-four election cycles from now. A couple of things that would hurt him in a Presidential bid would be A) he would have to be really established in the Senate for years in order to avoid the “he’s running for President of black America, not for President of the US” label that people throw at Sharpton and Jesse, B) his admission to past cocaine use (which I wasn’t aware of but was made privy to by commenters on this site), and C) the enduring problem of race in this country, a largely unspoken trauma in the minds of both whites and blacks that we haven’t progressed on because we’re so entrenched in our fears and narrow conceptions of community. But that’s a long way off and I’m just excited to see Obama start his work in the Senate for the people of Illinois. Giving him inflated expectations and speculating about his future accomplishments isn’t helpful or productive to him at this point since there’s a lot of work to be done in Illinois and the country as a whole to make sure leaders like Obama get elected.

    That is all.

  • RJ

    Personally, I think Obama is an empty suit. I don’t dislike him, but I feel he’s nothing special.

    If he were the same exact person, except he was white, there would not be the same positive buzz surounding the guy.

    I suspect he’ll win easily, and will go on to have a decent career in the US Senate. Nothing terribly noteworthy, but respectful.

    And I doubt he’ll ever become President.

  • RJ,

    Did you watch his speech at the Democratic Convention? People were comparing it to Mario Cuomo’s best.

    Were you editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review?

    Were you a law professor at the University of Chicago?

    The buzz around Obama has everything to do with the special things he’s accomplished, the way he carries himself, the way he speaks. He’s a special politician — the more you see him, the more you’ll realize that.

    And while I don’t think he’ll be President, he’ll be a big name in the Senate with a lot of influence from the start.

    That is all.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am eager to suppport leaders who act as social uniters rather than dividers: this is Obama’s importance on a national level, or at least his potential (this also was perhaps Clinton’s greatest strength). I despise divisive demagoguery from any direction.

  • Mike Kole

    Funny enough, my take on Obama is that he is a very special empty suit. I do think he carries himself extremely well and speaks extremely well, even if he only spoke in broad generalities and bromides at the convention. He will reach across to voters by virtue of his impressive credentials and the fact that he is the first-generation son of immigrants.

    Being an empty suit isn’t really a targeted insult. In order to survive the process on the way up the ladder, the candidate must increasingly restrain himself and speak only in bromides lest he alienate an increasing percentage of the voters. There isn’t a Senator or Congressman of any high regard who speaks specifically to issues and policy without being regarded as a divisive partisan at best, or a whacked-out kook at worst. Think of Evan Bayh, and then think of Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, or Ron Paul to see how this plays out these days. In fact, one reason Libertarians are dismissed as kooks is that we haven’t learned how to speak in platitudes well enough. We could learn a lot from Obama.

  • Mike Kole

    I think it is great that 73% of the people of Illinois think that it is wrong for a carpetbagger such as Keyes to be on the ballot.

    Oh, for such solid sentiment across the country in recent history!

  • Caoilfhionn

    Osama – excuse me – Obama – is merely another skerry candidate backed by George Soros. To think – by any stretch of the imagination – that Obama is a MODERATE is a joke. This is a man who was on the radio saying that candidates should be appointed and not elected.

    And he overtly covets Soros’ support. Obama, is different from most Democrats because of his willingness to embrace the controversial Soros. Shortly after Soros equated the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Obama joined him in New York for a fund-raiser June 7.

    The event, held at Soros’ home, boosted Obama’s campaign at a time he was still facing a challenge from Republican Jack Ryan. After news broke about information in Ryan’s divorce records, the candidate was forced to drop out. Anybody think that was a coincidence? When we live in an age when the President of the United States can have a public affair with another woman, but resist impeachment for lying under oath? I honestly didn’t think that Ryan’s little divorce papers scandal would even TOUCH Ryan. But that’s before I knew what he was up against.

    If one takes just a nanosecond to consider that John Kerry’s mantra “Let America be America Again” is ‘borrowed’ from a communist poet, Langston Hughes, the fact that both men are backed by Soros whose goal is to take Bush down and create an American classless society, and the top 10 reasons to defeat bush are published in full view right on the Communist Party’s website (and are coincidentally the same as the dem’s)–anyone who backs any of Soros’ candidates is voting for Communism and the further decline of freedom as we know it.

    Obama is one of only a handful of candidates to get a personal contribution from George Soros. The others include Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; Bob Graham, D-Fla.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos; and former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

    Let’s not forget Hillary’s statement “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

    Watch Obama carefully and you will see–he has the same agenda.

  • Shark

    Wow. The old “Red Scare – Commie Conspiracy” AND a ‘mistake’ equating a Democrat with Osama Bin Laden in one post!

    You get today’s *Joe McCarthy Memorial Award!

    *a tin foil hat with “Dunce” written on it.

  • Caoilfoil or whatever your name is … get out more. Calm down. Take a deep breath. I think you’ve been listening to too much Rush Limbaugh. Broaden your perspective on issues and get some information and evidence before you get out the right-wing flamethrower.

    Langston Hughes is a great poet and artist. I don’t know that his political views as a young man disqualify his art, but then your type generally isn’t concerned with art. Too busy taking the flamethrower to those Commies and their books, right? There are lots of great artists who flirted with Marxism during their youth — it was kind of a big idea at the time. Marxism as philosophy is also markedly distinct from Soviet communism or whatever ideological bogeyman you’re still trotting out.

    Keyes is in big trouble.

    He’s virtually killed any chance of downstate support by supporting slave reparations. Obama showed he’s more than a liberal stereotype and that he’s here to play hardball by going to the right of Keyes on the issue, saying reparations were a bad, impractical idea. Obama’s going to do very well downstate with voters who have never voted for a black (or even Democratic) candidate.

    Secondly, Keyes has zero support among the Illinois GOP mainstream. The chair of the Illinois GOP, Judy Baar Topinka, has refused (under persistent questioning) to even say she’d vote for Keyes, looked distressed during his recent anti-abortion speech at the Illinois State Fair, and has said the party will not give any funds to Keyes’s campaign. She’s also as much as said that any candidate the GOP would have found with 3 months left in the election cycle was a dead fish. Major movers and shakers in the Illinois GOP — moderate former governors like Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson — have refused to even show up at Keyes events or speeches and have been reluctant to even offer faint praise in interviews.

    It’ll be a blowout and the only attention Keyes is getting nationally is for his eccentric speeches and behavior (like singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for no apparent reason). People will watch the debates for the freakshow element to his candidacy.

    About Obama being an empty suit: Mike, if you think all politicians are empty suits (which might largely be true), that’s not a unique condemnation of Obama — it’s a cynical comment on politics as a whole. Keep in mind that Obama has been known as a policy wonk and intellectual in his time as an Illinois Senator (he was a law professor and scholar) and that his role model and mentor was the late Paul Simon, who was known as one of the most substantive members of either party during his long service in the Senate. They really don’t make bookish, stentorian types like Moynihan anymore in public service (especially in an age where media and being good in front of the cameras is so important), but Obama is as close as you’re going to get to a big brain along with that magnetic personality as anyone since Clinton (but with much more integrity and intellectual rigor).

    That is all.

  • It can’t be said that Blogcritics is without humor. When I read R.J. describing Barack Obama as “an empty suit” in Comment 7, I laughed so hard the swivel chair spun. It is too bad irony is lost on him.

  • Maybe instead of discounting my post you should look into what I said there. It is all fact, not fiction.

  • It’s almost overkill at this point, but the Keyes campaign is looking like one of the most weirdly idiosyncratic, catastrophic, over-the-top political disasters in recent memory. His speeches and opinions are growing more bizarre (contrary to anyone who’d call him a “puppet” of the white GOP), he’s becoming increasingly antagonistic toward the media (the only human beings who have shown interest in him so far), and he’s failed to gain any support or money. Keyes has alienated everyone in the Illinois GOP, especially with his last comments. It’s almost historic to hear the head of the Illinois GOP call his comments “idiotic” and “nasty” and to hear the most respected man in the Illinois GOP, 9/11 Commission member former Governor James Thompson, call Keyes “extreme, offensive” and deserving of the punishment he’ll get from voters in November. Thompson said he’d categorically refuse to vote for Keyes and that the people of Illinois should be insulted to have such a candidate on the ballot. Former GOP Governor Jim Edgar (perhaps as respected as Thompson), when asked about Keyes and his comments, said he and the GOP would focus all their attention and efforts to the losing cause of the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign in Illinois and called the Keyes debacle “extremely unfortunate.” Other GOP delegates have said that the Keyes campaign will all be over in 60 days and they’re just waiting it out. The Keyes debacle has even come to the attention of national players like John McCain, who called it “inappropriate” and stated the obvious, that Illinois would lose their GOP Senate seat.

    His comments are growing increasingly bizarre, all delivered in the same pompous, stilted, mad-professor tone, complete with painfully affected diction:

    “The heterosexual relationship is haunted by the possibility of the child, which means you have to commit yourself somewhere to your head to the possibility of a lifelong commitment that involves not only selfish pleasure but sometimes sacrifice.”

    Keyes is invoking natural law, Greek etymology, and “basic logic” in service of extreme viewpoints, making for one big, confusing non sequitir of hard right social politics. Every interview is Keyes blustering about “murder” and “infanticide” and calling Obama an extremist, succeeding only in making himself look utterly intolerable (much less electable). He’s also prickly with almost every member of the press he encounters (which is particularly bad on TV), has taken to blaming the media for the failure of his campaign (even alienating conservative columnists from right-leaning papers like the Chicago Tribune), and has spent most of his time in New York frequenting right-wing radio shows.

    I forget if I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago when it came out, but Obama was leading in the polls by over 40% even before this latest gaffe. He was winning in every part of the state, in every demographic, and even slightly ahead among conservatives. It’s going to be a landslide, with Obama winning over 60% of the vote (the last poll I saw a couple of weeks ago by the Chicago Tribune had it at 65%-22% or something like that). More disturbingly, a significant percentage of voters said that the Keyes campaign would make them less likely to vote for other GOP candidates (both national and state-wide) on the ballot in November. This effectively means the end of the social conservative/hard right wing of the Illinois GOP and will virtually guarantee the power of moderates for years to come in a state that is now as strongly Democratic as any in the middle of the nation.

    I hope Obama can stay above the fray, but I find Keyes a really interesting, fascinating study in bull-headed, almost apolitical sermonizing and venom. He’s perhaps the quirkiest and most unusual national candidate we’ve had in a while and he’s ratcheted up the zealotry about ten times since his failed Presidential campaigns where he was barely on the margins in getting media attention (along with Gary Bauer and other wackjobs). I’m an Alan Keyes fan even though I find all of what he says disagreeable and often flat incorrect. I find him vastly entertaining (mostly unintentionally) since you’ll never see anyone like him in a major election again for a very, very long time. He’s such a bad fit for this campaign, but it’s great political spectacle and his absolute lack of self-awareness makes it all the more desperate an effort by the hard right.

    That is all.

  • RJ


    This is the kind of comment that makes me lament the fact that you don’t have a blog.

    Please get one. They are still free, ya know?

    And, once you get a blog, you can become a REAL contributor to this site.

    Anyway, I pretty much agree with your analysis. Keyes is a fucking EMBARRASSMENT to the GOP in your state. Almost ANYONE else would have been a better candidate. He has alienated just about EVERY VOTER, and deserves the humiliating defeat he will soon receive.

  • boomcrashbaby

    He has alienated just about EVERY VOTER, and deserves the humiliating defeat he will soon receive.

    I just wish someone would ask him why he makes such hateful comments about gay people, when his daughter talks about life as a lesbian on her own blog.

  • “I should say, though, that the talk of Obama being the “First Black President” is premature and counterproductive. Obama himself has basically blown off such questions in interviews and said he has a lot of work to do to make the Senate, which is the right answer and the right approach”

    Yeah, well, he’s running anyway.