CHICAGO – With the general election less than three months away, former presidential hopeful Alan Keyes (search) says he needs a few days to decide whether he wants to accept the Illinois GOP's offer to be its Senate candidate.
Keyes, a Maryland resident, told Republican leaders who offered him the nomination Wednesday night that he would make his decision known Sunday. Under the law, Keyes would have to live in Illinois only by Election Day.
Asked how he felt about making a Senate run from a state he had never lived in, he responded: "As a matter of principle, I don't think it's a good idea."
"It has to be something where I would be convinced it's not only consonant with federalism as I understand it but that it's in the best interest of the state and of the nation," Keyes said.
If he enters the race, Keyes will be stepping into the national spotlight with another Harvard-educated, polished debater — Democratic rising star Barack Obama (search) — and setting up the first Senate election with two black candidates representing the major parties.
Obama's newly acquired high profile, Keyes said, means Democrats have "thrown down a gauntlet of national challenge" to the Illinois Republican Party.
Obama called the GOP choice of a black candidate "a hopeful sign for the country," adding, "I think obviously when we have 100 U.S. senators and none are African American, that's something that doesn't just trouble African Americans, I think it troubles all Americans."
For Illinois Republicans, it's been a laborious six-week search for a Senate candidate with the name recognition, fund-raising ability and willingness to take on Obama, a state senator from Chicago who has raised more than $10 million and gave the keynote address last month at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The GOP primary winner, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the Senate race in late June amid embarrassing sex club allegations in his divorce records. He was seeking to replace retiring Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.
Keyes ran for Senate in Maryland in 1988 as the Republican candidate after the primary winner withdrew. Keyes received 38.2 percent of the vote.
In 1992, Keyes got 29 percent against Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., amid grumbling by some voters that he had been paying himself a salary with campaign funds.
Keyes, who has been a national writer and speaker and had a syndicated radio show, is widely known for his conservative views. He opposes abortion and gay rights, wants to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, thinks parents should be able to send their children to schools that reflect their faith and calls affirmative action a "government patronage program."