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Inside Politics

Illinois GOP offers Senate nod to Alan Keyes

Former presidential hopeful to announce decision Sunday

Keyes says he needs time to consider whether to run for the Senate seat.
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- After two days of deliberations capping an often-frustrating six-week search for a new candidate, the Illinois Republican Party on Wednesday night offered its U.S. Senate nomination to former GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes, who does not live in the Land of Lincoln.

However, Keyes did not immediately accept the offer, saying he needed time to consider whether to run. He said he would announce a decision on Sunday.

"I think that an effort of statesmanship at this level requires a response from me that has been thought through at the same level," Keyes said. "And that's what I intend to do over the next couple of days."

"I'm not one of those folks who gets up every morning with the certainty that I have something to offer. But I'm always willing to consider it when people make that point."

A run by Keyes, 53, a conservative TV talk show host and lecturer who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000, would set up a Senate contest between two black candidates for the first time in U.S. history.

The Democratic nominee is state Sen. Barack Obama. Tagged as a rising star in Democratic political circles, he delivered the keynote address at last week's Democratic National Convention.

Keyes would replace Jack Ryan, the winner of the Republican primary who withdrew in June after disclosure of court documents concerning his personal life.

Keyes is no stranger to Senate races, having been an unsuccessful Republican nominee in 1988 and 1992 -- not in Illinois, but in Maryland, where he lives.

Under state law, Keyes would only have to move to Illinois prior to the election in order to be eligible. But even the candidate himself conceded the hurdle he faces running as an outsider, saying before his selection that "I do not take it for granted that it's a good idea to parachute into a state and go into a Senate race."

However, such a situation is not without recent precedent.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who grew up in Illinois and spent most of her adult life in Arkansas, did not live in New York prior to her decision to run there in 2000.

And Sen. Elizabeth Dole had not lived in North Carolina for decades when she ran there in 2002, although she had at least grown up and went to college in the Tar Heel state.

Both Clinton and Dole won. But given the GOP's problems, Obama is considered the prohibitive favorite to win the seat, now held by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican who opted not to seek a second term.

The GOP has struggled to find a candidate for the race since June, when Ryan withdrew from the race after a judge ordered release of documents related to his divorce from television actress Jeri Lynn Ryan.

In those documents, she alleged that he had taken her to sex clubs during their marriage and asked her to perform sex acts in front of other people. Jack Ryan denied the charges, but he abandoned the race after leading Republicans in Illinois began abandoning him amid the salacious headlines.

Over the intervening six weeks, a string of potential Republican candidates turned down entreaties to run, including legendary former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.

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