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In the Loop

Enter and Win: What Makes Alan Run?

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, August 11, 2004; Page A19

Liberal critics have skewered Illinois Republican Alan Keyes for taking on Democratic megastar Barack Obama in the race for the state's open Senate seat.

They've labeled the longtime Maryland resident a carpetbagger and an opportunist, and then unfairly dredge up an ancient jab Keyes took at fellow Illinoisan Hillary Rodham Clinton when she announced her run for the Senate in New York.

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"And I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it," he said then.

Well, let's face it. Federalism has always been a bit overrated.

Even so, his opponents claim that ancient allegation, made more than four long years ago, makes Keyes's latest campaign foray The Mother of All Flip-Flops.

Puh-leeze. It's wonderful to have the always-entertaining Maryland radio talk show host back in the hunt. Maybe he can't possibly win, but so what? The media love this guy.

Granted, he has lost races for the U.S. Senate in Maryland in 1988 and 1992. He also lost his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000.

But he has never lost in November in Illinois, has he? Well, has he?

On the other hand, this outsider business could possibly hurt the campaign. And his response on Sunday to the carpetbagging allegation could -- and should -- have been more deft.

"I was convinced someone had to run against Obama," he said. Who could disagree? That's what democracy is all about. But odds are most folks thought someone from Illinois should run against Obama. So that line isn't likely to do the trick. Worse yet, Keyes won't have much time to come up with better ones, since he'll be house-hunting, moving and getting a new driver's license.

BUT LOOP FANS CAN HELP! Yes, it's the first Loop Carpetbagger Deflection contest.

Keyes needs a sound-bite explanation for his gracious assent to move to the Land of Lincoln. Something like: "I've always been a Cubs fan; I decided to come clean now because I could no longer pretend to like the O's." Or: "Lake Michigan has no jellyfish." Or, you can go negative: "Why, we're practically neighbors. That joker was raised in Hawaii. You know how far Honolulu is from Chicago?" (About 6,400 miles.)

This is a two-day contest. So it's e-mail only. Entries -- to intheloop@washpost.com -- must be in by 10 a.m. Friday. And you must put home, work and/or cell phone numbers on your entry. As usual, Hill and administration folks can enter on "background" or even "deep background."

The 10 best entries will receive one of our highly coveted In the Loop T-shirts and, who knows, maybe even an invite to Keyes's swearing-in.

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