Just watched Alan Keyes on "Hannity and Colmes" tonight. They started with a clip from 2000 where he criticized Hilary Clinton for running for the Senate from New York even though she did not live there. Keyes offered this defense: Hilary ran to further her political ambitions; I hadn't even thought about running for the Senate from Illinois until the state Republicans approached me about it. That's a pretty good argument because both sides of it are true. Keyes was drafted to run. He wasn't seeking the nomination. That fact says something about the disarray in the Illinois Republican Party, but that's not his fault.
He made the further point that he is running on the basis of principle. He and Barack Obama represent opposite ends of the political spectrum. Keyes must make that point over and over and over again. It's not just about housing, healthcare and the economy. It's about the fundamental values that go to the core of our national identity. Senators don't just represent the interests of their particular states. They also deal with questions of enormous national significance. And perhaps none is more important than voting for the justices of the Supreme Court.
Keyes smiled a lot tonight and looked fairly relaxed. That's good, and he needs to do that a lot. However, he displayed a lack of patience with both Hannity and Colmes. He talks a lot and doesn't like to be interrupted. Because he is a man of principle, he sometimes speaks in ways that turn off all but those who are already share his point of view. If he is to have any chance at all, he must find a way to speak to the "middle ground" voters in Illinois who are not as conservative as he is.
One big issue will be the debates. He scored big points by intimating that Barack Obama was running away from debating him. If he can keep saying that with a good sense of humor, he will gain traction with the voters, and perhaps he will force Obama to debate him six times. Those debates are his best chance to gain ground quickly.
Today I had a friend (who happens to be African-American) tell me that the Republicans nominated Keyes because they want to split the black vote. I doubt that had much to do with it since the black vote goes so heavily Democratic. The fact that Keyes is conservative, articulate and available was probably more important. He's also Catholic, which is a plus in Illinois. So is being black, but I think that was probably a secondary factor in the decision to ask him to run.
The thought occured to me yesterday that if you could merge Alan Keyes and Mike Ditka, you would have the perfect candidate in Illinois. But that's not possible, so Alan Keyes has a lot of work to do--and only 85 days left to do it. So far, so good.
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