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Step off, old man!
Monday, 2 August 2004
Republican reality show
This comes from the online "Newsweek". In a nutshell, Illinois Republicans have to come up with someone to run against rising star Barack Obama. If they don't, he'll be free to travel around the country to campaign for Kerry and Edwards. Here it is:

July 31 - Here's the script: Find a dozen or so people with dreams of being a big-time politician. Stage an audition--each contestant makes a pitch to a panel of political pros. Do a Q and A. See how they think on their feet. Test their sound-bite skills. Check for skeletons in the closet. Finally, the panel huddles and picks a winner. The prize: running for the United States Senate. Sound like reality TV? Actually, this is how the Illinois Republican Party will select its nominee next week to face mega-star Democrat Barack Obama. But if it was realty TV, the show might be called, "Who Wants to be a Sacrificial Lamb?"

Political odds-makers wouldn't give any Republican a ghost of a chance to beat Obama, who dazzled the Democratic convention in Boston last week. But the GOP has got to find somebody. "Essentially, they've got to find a very wealthy person with a big ego," says Paul Green, a Chicago political insider, "who's willing to spend a lot of money to lose big." The first GOP nominee, Jack Ryan, withdrew after details emerged about his visits to sex clubs with his reluctant former wife. The Republicans tried to convince some former governors and other bigwigs to run. They wouldn't touch it. Then they went after Da Coach, former Bears' helmsman Mike Ditka. He shared a few of his political views--he was against gay marriage but in favor of public hangings--but the Levitra pitchman ultimately punted. The Republican troubles were worsened by Ryan's dallying in making his withdrawl official. The party couldn't nominate a candidate until he filled out the paperwork, a delay that peeved the party leaders. "It took him five weeks to fill out a form that took about a minute to complete," says Mary Alice Erickson, vice-chairwoman of the State Republican Central Committee.

The would-be candidates will make their pitches at the spiffy Union League Club in Chicago. The prospects will be appear before 19 Republican bosses. "They'll be put in a holding room, and then called in one by one," Erickson says. "Each will make a presentation and we'll ask questions. Then we'll go into executive session and hopefully come to a consensus."

The Republicans asked interested job-seekers to send in a bio. From that pool--the GOP won't say how many put in for the job--the party picked about a dozen. Among the prospects are dairy owner Jim Oberweis, who lost to Ryan in the primary and antagonized the White House along the way, chiefly by ripping President Bush's plan to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. Other contenders include retired Air Force Major Gen. John Borling, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman as well as some wealth entrepreneurs, including John Cox and Chirinjeev Kathuria. Some party leaders have been trying to recruit Orion Samuelson, a retired farm news broadcaster beloved in the corn belt. Samuelson says he might consider the race, but made it plain he wasn't about to spend any of his own money on it.

Republican leaders insist the race is still winnable, once they actually find a candidate. But even the GOP brass can't seem to keep from gushing over Obama. Judy Barr Topinka, the state treasurer and head of the party, told reporters: "With Barack Obama, I like the man. He's absolutely a charmer. And I'm proud of the fact the Democrats gave him a starring role at the convention." Republicans in Illinois say they'll survive. They've been through worse ordeals. In the mid-90s, scrambling to find a GOP candidate to face the powerful Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, they settled on Ray Wardingly, who was known professionally as "Spanky the Clown."

Posted by brettdavey at 10:35 AM EDT
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