"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Monday, August 09, 2004

Key Question for Keyes

Unlike some, I'm actually pretty excited about Alan Keyes running for the Senate from Illinois. It's risky, but there's a large upside to it if handled right. The downside, I think, is not as large, since the deck is already stacked against the GOP nominee and IL really isn't in play for presidential politics.

The most important question Keyes has to answer is: Why are you running for Senate? There is a private answer and a public answer. The public answer has to be: I want Illinois voters to have a choice instead of a coronation. Humor is vital in selling this: If Chicago can have two major league baseball teams, surely Illinois can handle two Senate candidates. I heard you needed a Cubs fan since Hillary switched caps. Hey, Nomar came to town to make the race competitive; so did I. Didn't you know I was the candidate to be named later? But the important thing is to emphasize that he's giving the people of Illinois a clear, real choice (stealing that term from the abortion supporters.)

The private answer, however, is really the important one. Is he running to become Illinois' next Senator? Probably not; he must know his chances are slim, and he won't have the grasp of Illinois issues that will convince enough Illinois voters to choose him. He's too risky, and he doesn't have a history of winning elections. Is he running to fire up the GOP base and try to sneak a win for Bush (or at least make Kerry defend Illinois?) Again, not likely; that ability would piggyback his ability to get his own votes which I think is lacking.

Is he running to advance a cause or set of ideas? This may be closer to the truth, but Keyes, although a brilliant orator, has not shown the political savvy to actually convince people to join his side. Is he in it for the debates and the attention? Keyes is a great debater and will clearly define Barack Obama, but Obama will eat his lunch on local issues, and one can almost guarantee any sponsored debates will have plenty of Illinois-specific questions (as it probably should, but it may go overboard.)

Is he trying to rebuild the Illinois GOP? He may be useful here, either by rousing down-ticket candidates, inspiring new GOP members and possible candidates, or even so far as reinvigorating the ideological spine of the IL GOP. Whatever his faults, Keyes has integrity, and IL has had some problems lately; Keyes might get the party to hold its head up high again. Is he running to set the terms of the national debate? This might be what he'd like to do; again, Keyes is about philosophical ideas and would love this kind of role, I suspect.

Finally, I see two more motivations, possibly the most likely. Keyes may be running simply to bloody Obama's nose. Obama's race, biography, and decent rhetorical skills already have some people thinking about a high-profile role for him in 2008, and his race and bio will garner him softball status from many in the press who just can't bring themselves to ask hard questions of a black liberal with a made-for-TV history. Keyes, as a black orator, can knock down a couple of his advantages and make the press either treat him like any other politician or be shown to be blatantly taking sides. A couple of high-profile debates may allow Keyes to saddle the newest Democratic star with the dread "liberal" label, thereby creating a long-term advantage for the GOP.

Finally, though, Keyes may just be running for the attention and notoriety. There seems to be a large streak of vanity in the man; he seems to wish the spotlight for its own sake, hence his presidential campaign. If this is his private motivation, then this race really will be a farce, and the IL GOP will be in deep trouble for years to come.

The Keyes campaign and Keyes himself need to figure out the answer to this question, and fast.

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