He'll be back (sigh)

August 12, 2004

GOT ANY MEMENTOS lying around from Republican Alan L. Keyes' numerous failed bids for elective office in Maryland? Preferably sweat-stained? Could be worth big bucks on eBay -- or maybe not.

A napkin purportedly used to wipe Mr. Keyes' glistening brow as he announced that he's running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois was offered on the auction Web site for several days this week, and attracted bids (from someone) in excess of $500, before it was withdrawn.

Alas, Maryland Republicans say their inclination has been to withdraw any trace of their unhappy relationship with Mr. Keyes, a gifted know-it-all who is a fine orator but a terrible candidate who couldn't ignore the impulses of his own enormous ego.

His decision to accept the draft of Illinois Republicans to try to brake the momentum of state Sen. Barack Obama, a rising Democratic star heavily favored to claim the open Senate seat, isn't breaking hearts here. Locals figure Illinois' loss is Maryland's gain.

It's not clear the Illinois GOP knew what it was getting into, so desperate was the party to find someone with celebrity cachet -- who coincidentally happens to be black, like Mr. Obama. Two failed Senate bids in Maryland and two quixotic races for the White House qualified Mr. Keyes, though he admits he knows almost nothing about Illinois and took a very dim view of carpetbagging when Hillary Rodham Clinton answered a similar draft in 2000 to run for the Senate from New York.

Already Mr. Keyes is off and running at what he does best: using his rhetorical skill to play the race card. He described Mr. Obama's refusal to vote for a bill that would ban late-term abortions even in cases when the mother's life is in danger as "the slaveholder's position." It doesn't have to make sense; Mr. Keyes just goes for the shock value.

His conservative views are popular with the right wing, but he's not big on accepting practical advice. When he ran for the Senate (from Maryland) in 1992, he insisted on using campaign funds to pay himself a monthly salary of $8,000 -- a sum far in excess of what most of his would-be constituents make even now.

Marylanders should rejoice at his move, and say "good riddance." Except that we know it's only temporary. He'll be back.

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