And now, the winners in the In the Loop Carpetbagger Deflector contest. This was to help our Gaithersburg neighbor and new Illinois GOP Senate candidate, Alan Keyes, come up with a deft sound bite to overcome allegations that he is a carpetbagger.

He also needed a hand parrying churlish critics who dredged up his old criticism of carpetbagging Illinoisan Hillary Rodham Clinton when she ran for the Senate from New York. It was a "destruction of federalism," he said, that he certainly would not "imitate."

The hundreds of e-mail entries -- including several dozen from Illinoisans -- generally grouped around a few themes: Polish sausage vs. crab cakes; Abraham Lincoln's being from Kentucky; Clinton; Osama and Obama; locks and "Keyes"; and spending time at O'Hare.

Our judges, Metropolitan Editor Robert Barnes and Reliable Source star Anne Schroeder, helped cull the entries, all certain to put this hypocrisy silliness to rest, down to the following winners in no particular order:

* "Emulating my president's service in the Air National Guard, my patriotic duty is to fly to wherever I can best serve my country." -- Robert B. Houston of Reston, who works in the Africa bureau at the State Department.

* "Peter Angelos blocked my efforts to run for anything in the D.C. area." -- Damon Thompson, who works for a public relations firm in Washington.

* "With growth in the Washington area the way it is, I'm just in the forefront of moving into the very outer suburbs. It's a long commute, sure, but for the great neighborhoods that Illinois offers, it's worth it." -- Tim O'Connor, a former Kansas City Star reporter now living in Kiev, Ukraine, where he has been running a media training center for the past seven years.

* "Alan Keyes -- representing the interest of all Illinoisans since, well, last Friday." -- Randall Harrison, who works for the Agriculture Department in Chicago.

* "I don't hear anyone complaining about Nomar coming from Boston to play shortstop. What's the diff?" -- submitted "on background" by a Senate Democratic aide.

* "I intend to walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln -- a man who was born outside of Illinois, moved to Illinois, ran for Senate and lost." -- Washington lawyer Eric Columbus. In that Lincolnesque theme, Adam Vaught, a third-year law student at Northern Illinois University, suggests: "All of my life I've wanted to run for the Senate in Illinois, just like Abraham Lincoln. That's why I talk about slavery every time I speak."

* "Comparing my decision to that of Senator Clinton ignores history and geography. Moving west in search of opportunity is an essential dynamic in our national heritage. It's a shame that those who accuse me of inconsistency don't share the values of Americans who honor the pioneer spirit." -- Donald A. Lash, executive director of a nonprofit organization in New York.

* "I'm going to live in the house Hillary Rodham grew up in, in Park Ridge. It was a Republican house then, and I will be a Republican senator living in it. The circle closes." -- Garry Jaffee, a retiree in Chicago.

* "Did I say federalism? I meant FedEx -- when you absolutely, positively have to get a black Republican overnight." -- Don Weitzman, a graduate student in British history at Berkeley.

* "I need to go where I can be heard, and I was told there is no noise in Illinois." -- Mike Boisvenue, chief of staff in the Coalition Provisional Authority inspector general's office in Baghdad.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all for entering.

Diplo Wives Expected Red Carpet

The Kerry campaign likes to hail Sen. John F. Kerry's credentials as making him the more worldly candidate, more appreciative, maybe more sensitive to matters international.

Apparently you couldn't prove that to a group of ambassadors' wives -- including at least one from a NATO ally -- who groused at dinner a week ago Saturday about how the Democrats treated them at the national convention in Boston.

Foreign dignitaries often attend the conventions as honored guests. But a source at the dinner said the wives "were appalled that they got the very last seats in the house" way up in the nosebleed section at FleetCenter. Imagine that climb in heels!

"They wondered if it's a reflection of how the Democrats feel about them," our source said. Now they're waiting to see how the Republicans are going to do in New York.

Stay tuned.

No Red-Carpet Jobs in Iraq

Attention Iraqi job seekers!

Opportunities are quickly expanding at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad. These are jobs that, as the USAID Web site says, give you "an opportunity to use your skills in a learning environment that promotes free thinking, presents challenges, and makes a real impact."

The first few openings were for drivers in the agency motor pool, which can be a challenging, perhaps too challenging, job in Iraq. But there are new jobs being posted. One is for a claims processor, another for a receptionist, a third for a travel agent to handle agency travel matters and, finally, one for a "field power engineer," who will actually be out there helping to rebuild the nation's electric grid.

Are They Weaving Red Carpets for GOP?

Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge took some flak from Democrats in Iowa last week for stopping off at the site of the Iowa state fair and deeming it "safe." The critics said the visit to check out security in a battleground state not heretofore known as a hotbed of terrorist activity was "little more than a photo opportunity."

Remember, though, as Ridge said of his department, "we don't do politics," and Iowa is critical as a center for the nation's food supply. Besides, those of us from the Midwest know state fairs are important cultural sites that could be targeted.