Obama’s previous election

Who is surprised the Chicago Tribune endorsed Barack Obama? Umm, no one.

Was it just four short years ago that Barack Obama came to the national stage, wet behind the ears, after being handed the U.S. Senate seat on a silver platter by the Illinois GOP, with help from the Chicago Tribune and other media? Yes. Yes it was.

And how did that happen? People who don’t live in Illinois (or Chicago, really) probably didn’t pay much attention to this sad story, but I think it bears repeating. Know your history, they say.

In 2004, the Illinois GOP was in a bit of a pickle. A mess, actually.  A former governor, George Ryan, was facing corruption charges (and later was found guilty and sent to prison), the party held no state-wide offices except for Treasurer, and the state party’s central committee refused (and still refuses) to allow “rank-and-file” members to vote for members of the central committee. Intra-party feuding was and is common — often due to conflicting beliefs about principles (conservative vs. moderate), and power.

Incumbent Senator Peter Fitzgerald – R, who only served one  term,  would be given no support for a reelection that year (too conservative? I never really figured out the real reason),. Judy Baar Topinka, then State Treasurer, was the most powerful Republican in the state.

The Senate race was wide open on both sides in the beginning.  A young man named Barack Obama began to build support on sites like Meetup.com, first popularized by crazy Howard Dean (arggghhh!). Republicans were pleased, thinking Obama was “a sleeper candidate who could emerge from the shadows and beat Hull” — a multimillion dollar investor who was also seeking the Dem nomination that year, and who Illinois Republicans believed would be more diffcult to beat. Ha ha.

The race on the Democratic side saw Blair Hull leading, but Obama gaining steam. And then something happened. Eric Zorn of the Trib began beating the drum about Hull’s divorce, order of protection, coverup, and subsequent release of records.  Hull’s wife had alleged violence, which probably was the case.

So the Trib (and others) endorsed Obama, who went on to beat Dan Hynes (heavyweight in Dem politics). And then along came Jack Ryan, the Republican nominee, who batted down Jim Oberweis and John Borling and Andy McKenna fairly confidently in the primary. But then what?  Questions emerged about Jack Ryan’s divorce as well (initially brought by an aide for former Republcan candidate John Borling, who, ironically, had been endorsed by John McCain).

A California court recommended keeping some of Ryan’s divorce records sealed to protect hisson. But after hounding by the media,  Judge Robert Schnider of the Superior Court in Los Angeles released  a number of the documents.

Juicy stories were then written about the allegations — ryan’s ex-wife Jeri alleged that he wanted to have sex with her in sex clubs. He denied it. More importantly, he had also denied that such things were in the records.

Illinois Republican party officials  were angry that Ryan had lied to THEM about what was in the sealed records. Of course, they had been sealed, but WHATEVER. He still obviously should not have lied. So Republicans refused to support Ryan.

So they forced him to exit, saying he would lose downstate voters. And then most offensively to democracy, the Central Committee did not allow another election to choose a nominee. They sat behind closed doors and chose.. .Maryland resident Alan Keyes.

Keyes went on to win a whopping 17% of Illinois voters in the general election, making the rising star, Barack Obama, a megastar in Democrat eyes.

And here we are today, with an essentially untested man running for the most powerful office in the world, and who most believe is a shoo-in.

Would he have won had Jack Ryan stayed in the race? Yes. Would he have won had Republicans been able to elect someone else (like an actual resident) to run against him? Yes. But he wouldn’t have had as much time, perhaps, to prepare for that DNC speech in 2004. Maybe. And he would have been tested. It would have been a real campaign. He would have earned it.

Or maybe it just worked out the way it was supposed to, and I need to get over my bitterness at the IL GOP…



  1. factchecker:

    Keyes actually got 27%, not 17%. Something like 1.3 million votes.

  2. Katy:

    You are right, FactChecker. Thanks. 27% indeed. A surprisingly strong showing considering the fact that Illinois Republican voters were not allowed to select Keyes as their nominee. (Nothing against Keyes. But he didn’t live here, and it was a naked attempt to garner support in the African-American community and placate social conservatives at the same time.) And may I just tell you that Judy and the other powers that be in Chicago certainly have NO INTEREST in the sort of conservatism that Keyes represented. The whole thing was a joke.

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