United States Senate election in Illinois, 2004

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2004-2008, U.S. Senate[edit]

2004 Primary Election[edit]

Despite initially trailing in the polls to frontrunner Blair Hull[1], Obama greatly benefited from what the Chicago Tribune called "the most inglorious campaign implosion in Illinois political history"[2] when pressure from journalists and opposing candidates, just weeks before the election, forced the unsealing of Hull's messy divorce files.[3] The files revealed Hull's ex-wife's accusations of verbal and physical abuse.[4] Hull would afterwards criticize the media, stating, "As for the press, I will never read the newspaper the same way again."[2] Obama would go on to win the Primary with 53% of the vote.[3] Obama's unexpected victory led to him being termed a "rising star" by the media.[5]

2004 General Election[edit]

Jack Ryan[edit]

Once again Obama found himself trailing to popular frontrunner Jack Ryan, and once again a candidate's campaign imploded thanks to media intervention. In an unprecedented move, the Chicago Tribune and local TV station WLS sued to force the unsealing of Ryan's divorce files, despite opposition from both Ryan and his wife, Jeri Ryan, who in the files accused Jack Ryan of trying to coerce her to perform sex acts in public. Though Ryan advisors told him he could still win if using a negative attack on Obama, Ryan refused:

Ryan then dropped out of the race (per request by the Illinois GOP[7]), following which the Illinois GOP scrambled to find a replacement, leaving Obama uncontested for weeks to campaign and build up public support. On top of all this, Obama was selected to give the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (July 27[8]), catapulting him into the national spotlight, and leading to further media publicity terming him a "rising star".[9]

Alan Keyes[edit]

Main Article: Obama born_alive controversy

After a number of candidates including former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka declined to run[10], the Illinois GOP finally settled on fiery Alan Keyes, a former Ambassador to the Economic and Social Counsel of the United Nations[4], with less than 3 months left before the November 2004 election.[11] His sudden entrance into the state for the election was initially attacked in the press as "carpetbagging".[12][13][14] Keyes repeatedly claimed his primary motivation for entering a race he had seemingly no chance of winning was his disgust at Obama's votes on the popular Born Alive bills. Keyes, from his first day of arriving in Illinois (August 9, 2004)[15], accused Obama of having voted against bills mandating medical care for newborn children, and supporting "infanticide" (the term twice used in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act[16]) where hospitals left newborn infants to die like garbage.[17][18]

Obama in a debate on October 13, 2004, defended himself against Keyes' accusations of infanticide, retorting,

However, Keyes' rhetoric, calling Obama's votes "the slaveholder's position"[15] and saying "Jesus Christ would not vote for Obama"[21] was widely ridiculed by the press. Keyes' unabashed criticism of homosexuality as "selfish hedonism" also led to his demonization in the press when he was asked by gay radio host Michelangelo Signorile if that made Mary Cheney one as well, and Keyes answered, "Of course she is. That goes by definition."[22] Major publications then criticized him as having "lashed out", "trashed", and "attacked" Mary Cheney as a sinner.[23][24][14] Keyes pointed out that he never brought up the subject, and was simply responding to the show's host, stating "You have intervened in order to try to personalize the discussion of an issue that I did not personalize. The people asking me the question did so and if that's inappropriate, blame the media. Don't blame me."[25][26]

Obama would ultimately win the election, 70% to 27%.[27]

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Spivak, Todd (2004, March 25). "In the Black." Illinois Times.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mendell, David (2004, March 17). "Obama Routs Democratic Foes." Chicago Tribune.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Voegeli, William (2004, March 19). "The Rise and Fall of Blair Hull." The Claremont Institute.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Spivak, Todd (2008, February 28). "Barack Obama and Me." Houston Press.
  5. Howlett, Debbie (2004, March 18). "Dems See a Rising Star in Illinois Senate Candidate." USA Today.
  6. Associated Press (2004, June 26). "Jack Ryan Abandons Senate Bid."
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sangwan, Rahul (2004, October 1). "Jack Ryan '81: The Conservative Idealist." Dartmouth Independent.
  8. Washington Post (2004, June 26). "Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama."
  9. Page, Susan & Despoignes, Peronet (2004, July 28). "Rising Star Brings Democrats to Their Feet." USA Today.
  10. CNN (2004, August 9). "Keyes Challenges Obama for Illinois Senate Seat."
  11. MSNBC (2008, February 20). "Obama Becomes Rising Star Among Democrats."
  12. Chicago Tribune. "The GOP's Rent-A-Senator."
  13. Washington Post (2004, August 9). "Mr. Keyes the Carpetbagger.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Pearson, Rick (2004, September 5). "Keyes, State GOP Gearing Up Blame Campaign." Chicago Tribune.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Associated Press (2004, August 9). "Keyes Assails Obama's Abortion Views."
  16. United States Congress (2003, March 13). "S.3: Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003."
  17. Smiley, Tavis (2004, August 31). "Alan Keyes on the Tavis Smiley Show." NPR.
  18. CBS2 Chicago (2004, August 30). "Alan Keyes on CBS2 Chicago This Morning." This Morning.
  19. Keyes, Alan (2004, August 18). "How You Can Help Alan Keyes for Senate!." Keyes2004 Inc.
  20. Chicago Tribune (2004, October 13). "Debate or Discussion?"
  21. Thomas, Scott (2004, September 7). "Alan Keyes on the Scott Thomas Show (AM1160 - WYLL)." Scott Thomas Show. Chicago, Illinois.
  22. Signorile, Michelangelo (2004, August 31). "Alan Keyes Discusses Homosexuality with Sirius OutQ." Sirius OutQ.
  23. Associated Press. "Keyes: Cheney's Gay Daughter Practicing Selfish Hedonism."
  24. Skalka, Jennifer & Casillas, Ofelia (2004, August 31). "Keyes Defends Comments About Cheney's Gay Daughter." Chicago Tribune.
  25. Pallasch, Abdom M. (2004, September 2). "Topinka Says He Should Apologize for 'Idiotic' Comment." Chicago Sun-Times.
  26. Mostert, Mary (2004, September 4). "Alan Keyes Teaches Sex Education Lesson to Homosexual Interviewer." RenewAmerica.
  27. CNN.com. "Election Results: U.S. Senate/Illinois." Election 2004.