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Alan Keyes: 'We're going to make a good fight of it'

Republican faces Obama in Illinois

GOP Senate candidate Alan Keyes
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Alan Keyes
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two-time Republican presidential candidate and Maryland resident Alan Keyes announced Sunday his candidacy for the U.S. Senate for an open seat in Illinois. He's running against Democrat Barack Obama, who is leading in in the polls. CNN anchor Candy Crowley talked with Keyes from Chicago on Monday. The following is an edited transcript.

CROWLEY: I want to talk to you about my take listening to you yesterday announce. And that is, I get the sense that this is -- you're in it more for the battle than the win. I never got that sense of, on to victory, we are going to take this seat for Republicans.

KEYES: Well, that's not true. I think, though, that it's quite clear that in my case, as always, the victory depends on making sure people understand how I look at the issues that confront us and how that is distinguished from somebody like Barack Obama, who, on a range of issues -- but especially on the issues of deep moral principle -- has abandoned the American declaration, has abandoned the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln, who came from Illinois.

And the very principles on the basis of which slavery was abolished have been abandoned by Barack Obama and others in the Democratic Party. And I think that that abandonment betrays the heart of many Americans who are deeply committed to the American creed. And that is the reason I have stepped into this race.

CROWLEY: Now Illinois is in the Midwest, sort of on the liberal side. You are for prayer in public schools, against preferential affirmative action, against gay marriage, and pro-life, against abortion. Do those views fit into enough of the countryside in Illinois to give you a victory?

KEYES: Well, I think that remains to be seen. But we're going to make a good fight of it. I think that ordinary Illinoisans -- I know that they have a strong commitment at the grassroots because I've been in and out of this state on several occasions in the course of the last few years to work with people at the grassroots who are putting together ... crisis pregnancy centers, pro-life groups, other groups that are committed to changes in our income tax system, so that we get away from this government-dominated income tax, people who are favoring choice in education.

I think at the grassroots what I stand for resonates deeply. They have already begun to respond with enthusiasm to the candidacy. And I think that that is going to contribute to a rallying not only of the Republican base in this state, but of people, Democrats, others, independents, who believe deeply in the things that I believe in but have not offered a choice in quite a while in the state of Illinois except, by the way, (in) the successful campaign of Senator Peter Fitzgerald, whom I am succeeding.

CROWLEY: Mr. Keyes ... you criticized Hillary Clinton for going to New York, and we have to at least discuss the carpetbagger issue. You have said, look, I don't know what the issues are in Illinois, I'm going to listen. But is that ... this close to an election, really a bumper sticker you can run on?

KEYES: Well, I think I have addressed the issue of the very deep differences between what I am doing and Hillary Clinton. She used the state of New York as a platform for her own personal ambition.

I had no thought of coming to Illinois to run until the people here in the state party decided there was a need. Just as people faced with a flood, or people in the case of 9/11, would call on folks, firefighters and others to help them deal with the crisis that they were faced with.

The people in Illinois have called on me to help deal with what they regard as a crisis. But from the point of view of my own personal principles, I believe in federalism. And I had to think this through based on my respect for the principle of state sovereignty.

But I think when you have a candidate like Barack Obama who has turned his back on the principles of our national union, you have to stand in defense of those principles just as Lincoln did in the run-up to the Civil War. He understood that our respect for state sovereignty must be limited by our commitment to defending the principles of our national union. And that's what I am doing.

And I am doing it on behalf of Illinoisans who deeply believe that we should not abandon those principles, on abortion, on our respect for traditional marriage, on our respect for true self-government as the basis of our approach to education and to our economy. These are folks who have stood with me over the years, who have seen me as someone who speaks for their hearts and now I will be offering them a choice in Illinois.

CROWLEY: Now when you look at it, though, there clearly are people that are going to be in sync with your value system and the things that you have supported so long. But the fact of the matter is in the end, don't a lot of people come away with a thought, this is a platform for Alan Keyes to talk about the things he's interested in rather than a search for who can best represent Illinois?

KEYES: Oh, not at all, because it's not what I believe in ... Barack Obama is somebody, for instance, who on abortion takes a stand that turns its back on the principles on the basis of which slavery was abolished, the principles on the basis of which Martin Luther King argued against segregation.

The Declaration (of Independence) principles, "All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights," those principles have been critical in every decision of conscience, every progress we have made in the extension of true rights to every group in this country. I don't speak just from Alan Keyes, I speak from American principle to the hearts of the American people who have always responded to those appeals of conscience.

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