How state GOP furthered Obama's ascent
Kerry Lester's recent article reminded me how screwed up the Illinois GOP continues to be and made me recall how their past actions eventually resulted in Barack Obama becoming president. That's right folks, the last four years have been all the Illinois Republican Party's fault.
During the 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, the Illinois GOP turned its back on incumbent Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald because he was not conservative enough and was too much of a maverick for GOP sensibilities. These "geniuses" shifted state support to their conservative knight in shining armor, Jack Ryan, who campaigned aggressively against Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Their plans completely fell apart when sordid details about Ryan's divorce from his actress wife were published. Ryan was forced to withdraw and the Illinois GOP found itself scrambling, in mid-campaign, for a replacement candidate. They became a national joke when Mike Ditka's name surfaced and actually made things worse by importing ultraconservative Alan Keyes, who was not even from Illinois.
Keyes campaigned on his own agenda and constantly declared that repealing the 17th Amendment was one of his priorities. Soon Illinois Republican Party campaign literature was not even including Keyes' name. Obama easily defeated Keyes and, after a few mediocre years in the Senate, ran for and was elected president.
The Illinois Republican Party should have been less focused on "purity" issues and ignored Fitzgerald's quirks. Had they supported him for re-election, I believe that he would have defeated Obama, Obama would not have become a national figure, and Obama would have returned to Springfield and would still be there today.
Why am I recounting all this? Because the Illinois GOP does not seemed to have changed at all in the past nine years. One would think that they would have learned from their past mistakes.
Bill Pohnan Jr.
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