- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Republican Alan Keyes has some catching up to do in the race against Democrat Barack Obama for an Illinois seat in the U.S. Senate, having announced he was his party’s candidate on Sunday, less than 90 days before the election.

The two Harvard-educated black men already have planned at least two debates. Forty-two-year-old Mr. Obama’s $10 million war chest gives him a hefty advantage over Mr. Keyes in the Nov. 2 election.

“This race is the second most important of the political season, only behind the presidential race,” said William Greene, a conservative Internet guru who leads Strategic Internet Campaign Management, Inc.

The seat is being vacated by Republican Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald, who chose not to seek re-election. Mr. Keyes replaces former candidate Jack Ryan, who dropped out of the race June 25 after records of his divorce were made public.

The challenge is to raise funds and give Mr. Keyes a statewide profile that matches his national standing, Mr. Greene said.

“I look at Keyes as the Howard Dean of the right,” Mr. Greene said. “He has the support of the conservative base nationwide, and a very grass-roots sort of support as well. But his challenge is getting beyond that core and getting his stances known to the Illinois population.”

Mr. Keyes, a former ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, is a Maryland resident who, under federal law, needs to move to Illinois only by Election Day to be eligible to run.

Mr. Keyes, 54, already is dressing down Mr. Obama, a former state lawmaker, on key social issues, including abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

The twice-failed presidential candidate said this week that Mr. Obama’s vote against a bill that would have outlawed late-term abortion denied unborn children their equal rights.

“He is actually one of the few politicians who seeks live abortions, and supported the notion that we should let that baby die,” Mr. Keyes told The Washington Times this week. He added that the stance is a “slaveholder’s position” for its lack of consideration for the child’s rights.

Mr. Obama’s campaign did not return calls yesterday.

The bluster of Mr. Keyes, though, does not play well with all the factions of the state Republicans. He has yet to receive the backing of former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson. Even some in the state party are unsure of the Keyes candidacy.

“I don’t know whether Alan Keyes is the best person for this race in a perfect world,” said Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who took his name out of the running for the spot last month. “But it is not a perfect world, and we had limited candidates from which to choose because of the time crunch. But I am not displeased that he stepped forward.”

In the black community, Mr. Keyes expects to pick up support on his social conservatism, despite his ardent opposition to affirmative action and other programs that many black voters hold dear.

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