- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

CHICAGO (AP) — Barack Obama, the Senate candidate from Illinois who made a splash at the Democratic National Convention, may be coming soon to a town near you.

Since giving the keynote address at the convention in July, Mr. Obama has become a sought-after commodity at national party functions and fund-raisers. With polls showing him well ahead in his race against Republican Alan Keyes, the young, Harvard-educated state senator is using his star status to lend a hand to other Democrats.

Today alone, Mr. Obama is scheduled to fly to Baltimore for his own fund-raiser, then head to Philadelphia to raise money for other Democrats and headline a voter-registration rally. Weather permitting, he will end the day in Miami at another get-out-the-vote event.

“Since the day he got in the race, even in the primary, he has proven to be an inspiring candidate,” said Cara Morris, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Mr. Obama had raised $9.8 million as of June 30, before his convention speech. His campaign did not provide more recent figures.

For a state legislator in his first national race, Mr. Obama has been sorting through an unusual number of invitations to headline events outside his home state. Either he or Mr. Keyes will become the nation’s only black senator, giving the race instant buzz.

Mr. Obama leads Mr. Keyes by 51 percentage points in the race for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald, according to a Tribune/WGN-TV poll published yesterday. The poll of 700 likely voters found that 68 percent favored Mr. Obama and 17 percent supported Mr. Keyes. The survey was conducted Sept. 17 to 20 and has a margin of error of four percentage points.

Mr. Obama calls the hype surrounding his candidacy “a little overblown,” but says he’s not opposed to using that hype to try to help Democrats take the Senate on Nov. 2. Republicans control the Senate, 51-48, with one Democratic-leaning independent.

“I’ve served in the majority and the minority in the legislature, and it’s a lot more fun serving in the majority,” Mr. Obama said. “So I want to help in any way that I can to make sure that we’ve got a Democratically controlled Senate.”

Mr. Obama recently joined a fund-raising committee, called America’s Hope for a Majority, with two Democratic candidates in tight races that could tip the balance of the Senate. Those candidates — Ken Salazar in Colorado and Betty Castor in Florida — will appear with Mr. Obama today in Philadelphia.

Just this month, Mr. Obama has helped the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raise money in New York and Chicago. He also has made his own fund-raising trips to Los Angeles, Alabama and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., in recent weeks.

“Should we finish the job here in this campaign and I win the election, I think that I will have a higher profile than the average junior senator, and I think that can be beneficial in terms of leveraging issues and resources for the state,” Mr. Obama said.

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