Obama projected to gain seat for Dems
U.S. Senate race in Illinois
(CNN) -- Democratic hopes of winning the open Senate seat in Illinois were pinned on rising star Barack Obama, who CNN projects will defeat two-time presidential candidate Alan Keyes.
Jack Ryan, the original Republican nominee, dropped out of the race after the release of his divorce papers. After former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka turned down entreaties from the state GOP, Keyes became the nominee August 8.
The Senate contest was the first between two black candidates from major parties in U.S. history.
Obama, 44, had been considered the prohibitive favorite to win the seat that was being vacated by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican stepping down after one term. A state senator and former president of the Harvard Law Review who teaches constitutional law at the University of Chicago, Obama gained national attention after a well-received keynote speech in July at the Democratic National Convention.
Obama said he would work to pass a proposal creating academies to train 25,000 new teachers. According to The Associated Press, Obama advocated expanding existing federal programs, such as Medicare, at a cost of $68 billion. Expansion would provide coverage for 25 million more people, he said.
Keyes, 55, caused controversy when he said more black babies were aborted than were born in the United States, a point he later conceded was incorrect. Keyes made abortion a central issue, saying on his campaign Web site that the Declaration of Independence talks of rights that a fetus, as human being, can not be denied. He also opposes same-sex marriages and says the smaller the federal government the better.
Keyes, who was ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council under President Reagan, sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000 and ran two unsuccessful Senate campaigns in Maryland. Keyes conceded he faced hurdles running as an outsider in Illinois, but he noted that Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the state's most famous politician, was not a native of Illinois.