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In 2004, a Senate result in Illinois struck me as odd. Barack Obama, also the 44th president of the United States, won by forty three points. Wow. I wonder what made this happen. Maybe it was because Keyes was black as well, and more people voted for Obama because he was more inspirational. Why did the then senator win such a sweeping victory?

Note: this happened in MN in 2012. Klobuchar won her seat by 30 pts and Obama won MN by less than 10. I don't think that it was so much because Keyes was also black, but more about his electability compared to a future president.

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    Klobuchar was an incumbent in 2012 and incumbents usually do better so I wouldn’t say that’s a parallel scenario to the Obama/Keyes election. – Panda Jun 22 at 1:10
  • I'm not sure I understand why you propose that both candidates being Black led to a larger margin? – Azor Ahai -- he him Jun 22 at 15:38
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    Is the premise being forwarded here that support for Obama was strictly because he was black, and therefore Keyes should have been able to stalemate Obama based on skin pigment? If not, maybe you can clarify why you think a fringe conservative in a solidly Democratic and liberal state, drafted at the last moment to run when the previous GOP candidate withdrew because of a sex scandal, should/would do better against one of the most popular political figures (electorally - won both terms with an electoral majority, not done since Reagan, and Eisenhower before that) of his generation. – PoloHoleSet Jun 22 at 17:53
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In the 2004 senate election, Obama was pitted against Jack Ryan. In the middle of the campaign, papers were released as part of Ryan's divorce that suggested he had taken his wife to sex clubs and asked her to have sex in public. Moreover, he had lied privately to the Republican committee, saying that there was nothing potentially embarrassing in the divorce files. As a result, Ryan lost the support of his party, and without support was forced to withdraw.

Keyes was brought in. Keyes had not even been in the primary campaign. Keyes had no connection to Illinois. He had no name recognition in Illinois. His previous criticism of Hillary Clinton standing in New York was used against him. He was outspent by Obama by a factor of about 7:1. And he made mistakes on the campaign trail, suggesting that Obama was not a true African-American. Moreover Keyes's conservative and hard-line policies on abortion, for example, did not go down well with the generally moderate republicans in suburban and rural Illinois.

In other words, this was a disastrous campaign for the Republican Party. Obama, on the other hand, fought a smart campaign. He stayed above the fray while the Ryan campaign imploded. He used the gap when the Republicans had no candidate to campaign amongst moderate Republicans and build name recognition. He made no mistakes and appeared calm and confident candidate.

There was notable split-ticket voting in 2004. With Kerry winning the state by (only) 10 percentage points, and many rural counties voting for Bush in the presidential election, but Obama in the Senate.

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    His wife Jeri Ryan, Star Trek Voyager's Seven of Nine. – bishop Jun 22 at 1:35
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    Not sure that I'd call Illinois "moderate." Chicago pretty much controls the whole state. The population outside of Chicago might be moderate, but their votes consistently get completely drowned out by votes from Chicago. The last time a Republican even came within 10 percentage points of a Democrat in Illinois in a Presidential election was 1988. The Class 2 Senate seat in Illinois hasn't been held by a Republican since 1985, though a Republican did hold the Class 3 seat from 2010-2017 as a result of winning a special election after the Democratic Governor was caught trying to sell the seat. – reirab Jun 22 at 8:13
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    I was really looking at the generally Republican counties outside of Chicago. They are less socially conservative than Republicans in the South, for example. – James K Jun 22 at 13:50
  • There's nothing wrong with going to sex clubs - should it say that he coerced her into it? Or was it just general GOP prudishness that meant that consensual sex outside of missionary was too much for them? – Azor Ahai -- he him Jun 22 at 15:39
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    @reirab: Consult this map. Obama won all over the state, not just in Chicago. In general, you don't get to a 43% margin by winning one city. – Kevin Jun 22 at 17:23

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