August 11, 2004


Keyes says he wants rumble with Obama (SCOTT FORNEK, 8/11/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

It was only two days into the Barack Obama-Alan Keyes Senate matchup Tuesday, but Keyes might already be starting to get under the Democratic frontrunner's skin.

Obama laughed, smiled and tried out a few quips with reporters who quizzed him about the Republican's virulent characterization of Obama as being afraid to stick to an earlier offer to participate in six debates.

But the Democrat quickly grew tired of explaining why he now only wants to do three debates.

"You know, come on," Obama told a reporter. "You've already had fun. You got one headline out of it today."

One has run for president twice, the other for a safe state legislature seat.

Obama's backpedaling is a disappointment (MARK BROWN, 8/11/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

Democrat Barack Obama found himself in an uncharacteristic position Tuesday as he met reporters in the basement level of the Harold Washington Library. For the first time in months, he was on the defensive.

Obama was trying to explain why he doesn't intend to stand behind the written offer he made earlier in the campaign to hold six debates with his Republican opponent for the U.S. Senate, back when that opponent was Jack Ryan.

Now that Ryan has been replaced on the GOP ticket by Alan Keyes, our excitable visitor from Maryland, Obama thinks three debates should be "sufficient."

The problem was that Obama's explanation for this change of heart didn't quite wash, which you would hope is the reason he at times looked just a wee bit uncomfortable as he delivered it.

"At this point, the schedule is getting short, and we're not going to have my schedule and the schedule of our campaign dictated by somebody who just arrived two days ago. So my suggestion would be that Mr. Keyes spend some time getting to know Illinois voters, talking to them, getting familiar with some of the issues we have been dealing with for the last 18 months," Obama said.

That was political doublespeak...

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2004 10:38 AM

Having an opponent doesn't seem as fun for Obama as being coronated was.

Posted by: pj at August 11, 2004 11:21 AM

1988 lost a senate race to Paul Sarbanes (D - MD) - 38% of the vote
1992 lost a senate race to Barbara Mikulski (D - MD) - 29% of the vote

"I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate her." - Crossfire

I'm not feeling confident.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at August 11, 2004 11:23 AM

I just came back from a wedding in Chicago this weekend. EVERYONE called Keyes a carpetbagger.

I guess never having lived in IL seems to be a turn off.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at August 11, 2004 11:27 AM

A recent poll has Obama way ahead 65-25 but I would expect Keyes will give him some type of fight and at least make him work for it a bit.
M - if you follow the OJudd theory then a african american male can't win statewide. And MD is a fairly solid Blue state. Here both candidates are african american men so the race factor should be neutralized. Hopefully it will boil down to resumes on which Keyes wins handily. But given that IL appears solid blue I'm still putting this in the Dem pickup column

Posted by: AWW at August 11, 2004 11:29 AM

Everyone called RFK and Hillary carpetbaggers.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2004 11:34 AM

It's going to be fun!

Posted by: Sandy P at August 11, 2004 12:09 PM

oj - The Midwest is a little more traditional in their values than New York. Carpetbagging is liable to be fatal in Illinois.

Posted by: pj at August 11, 2004 1:07 PM

I seriously doubt that Keyes has any chance of actually winning. His role though could be significant if he can take a bit of the shine off Obama's star by seriously debating him on actual issues and positions thereby exposing whether he is in fact the centrist that Democrats are portraying him as. The goal in this case is not so much to win this election but to try and derail Obama's future aspirations.

Posted by: MB at August 11, 2004 1:19 PM

There is *no way* Keyes will win, but that is almost certainly beside the point. He is saving the Republican Party from the embarrassment of not fielding a candidate, and the race ought to be understood as such.

Now, just why couldn't a native Illinoian (?!) be persuaded to run?

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at August 11, 2004 1:20 PM

1) Carpetbagging is always a plus IF you are from the dominant party: HRC and RFK in NY and Jay Rockefeller of WV all followed that model to success. (BTW why does everyone forget Rockefeller as a model of a successful carpetbagging politico? Even though he did it first in his run for state office, it's not like he's _actually_ one of the Parkersburg Rockefellers or something...)

2) Illinoisans will hate the idea of an outsider; they will also hate to see Obama acting as if he's too chicken to take on Keyes. They like fighters--that's a common element in figures in IL politics--esp. in Chicago--all down the line...Douglas, Lincoln, Altgeld, Daley, Harold Washington...all tough pols. If Obama comes across as a wimp and afraid to fight, they won't like it.

3) If Obama doesn't fight, and wages a lousy campaign...and Keyes runs a flawless campaign--he can get within 10%

Posted by: cornetofhorse at August 11, 2004 2:04 PM

Keyes didn't actually run for President twice - He went on two nationwide speaking tours.

Even if Keyes were a really, really good looking rich white man, he couldn't win a national election with his philosophies.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 11, 2004 2:13 PM

Michael H:

Unless he were also tall and had good hair. Then all bets would be off!

Posted by: mike earl at August 11, 2004 2:25 PM

Reagan did.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2004 2:39 PM

In this corner, Obama: Charismatic, good public speaker, with the Party machine backing him.

And in this corner, Keyes: Who has nothing to lose.

This is gonna get interesting...

Posted by: Ken at August 12, 2004 12:37 PM