Thursday, August 05, 2004

Will Keyes Run?

The Chicago Tribune has a great story on the politics behind the decision by the Illinois GOP to pick Alan Keyes as their U.S. Senate candidate:

"Inside the meeting, the battle to pick the candidate mirrored the skirmishes that have divided the Republican Party for years. Longtime conservatives who want to see the party lean more to the right debated with moderates who feel their way is the party's only chance to regain its strength and broaden its appeal.

Keyes took about 90 minutes to speak with committee members, while Barthwell, who was interviewed a day earlier, spoke for about 50 minutes.

As the debate waged behind closed doors among the committee members, the conservative wing backed Keyes and moderates supported Barthwell. The issue of abortion came to the fore, according to Republican sources close to the talks.

Conservatives pushed hard for Keyes because of his strong stance opposing abortion rights, a position they think would draw the support of core Republicans. Barthwell is considered a candidate who generally supports abortion rights.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, a member of the committee, said it appeared from early in the day that Keyes had enough of the committee's vote to secure the nomination.

Committee members, both conservative and moderate, were impressed by Keyes' firm grasp of the issues and his ability to eloquently express views that contrast sharply with Obama's.

But members also became aware that Keyes might not take the nomination if the committee voted for him. The 53-year-old insisted that before accepting the nomination he must have the full support of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and U.S. Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, several Republican sources said.

Keyes also wanted assurances of financial backing for the race.

Some high-ranking Republicans said they feared he was only seizing on the high-profile vacancy as a way to resurrect his talk-show career and book sales.

Even before the meeting, Keyes was coy about whether he would take the nomination if it were offered, saying that he was there to "consult with (the state Republican Party) about the best way to go about making" the nomination. "I'm here to chat with them about how best to pursue it," he said.

Earlier, Hastert verbally backed Keyes, but it remained unclear how much financial support he would lend him.

"I think he'd make a good candidate," Hastert said in Washington. "He has name recognition in Illinois and would come into the race with a lot of credibility with our base."

But even Hastert said it was about time for the state party to make a decision.

"We're getting down to the point where we need to have a candidate," he said. "We don't have a lot of time to be choosy."

I wouldn't be surprised if Keye's doesn't run. I suspect that one major reason he was picked is that Illinois GOPers thought Keyes would have enough name recognition, free media appeal, and access to conservative donor lists that they wouldn't have to put up much money. They know he's going to lose and therefore want to pour as little money down that drain as possible. Once Keyes realizes this, I'll bet he ends up not running. Of course, he'll argue that his decision was based on unvarying interpretation of natural law and federalist ideals, but in the end, it's about the money.

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