CHICAGO – Two days after his record loss in the U.S. Senate race, Republican Alan Keyes conceded defeat during a radio interview Thursday. But he said he would never congratulate the winner, Barack Obama, because the Democrat stood for “a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country.”

Keyes sounded a defiant note Tuesday night when he addressed supporters, but then dropped from public view after losing to Obama 70 percent to 27 percent, the biggest gap ever in an Illinois U.S. Senate race.

He resurfaced, in voice only, Thursday during a phone interview on WYLL-AM, a Christian talk station in Chicago. In the interview, Keyes said he accepted the election results but blamed his poor showing on other Republicans and the media.

He reminded listeners that throughout his campaign he had said he was “engaged in a battle between good and evil.” Because of that, he said, he did not feel that he could offer his congratulations to Obama.

“I’m supposed to make a call that represents the congratulations toward that which I believe ultimately stands for and will stand for a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country?” Keyes asked rhetorically. “I can’t do this. And I will not make a false gesture.”

Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for Obama, declined to address Keyes’ comments.

“Everyone has to make their own decisions. The people of Illinois rendered a very clear decision on Tuesday by handing Alan Keyes the greatest electoral defeat in Illinois Senate history,” Gibbs said. “Barack Obama’s attention is focused on the very important work for all of the people of Illinois.”

Earlier, Gibbs had told the Chicago Tribune that he talked five times on election night with a top Keyes staffer who was trying to get his candidate to concede. The Keyes aide, Dan Proft, apologized repeatedly for his candidate’s behavior, Gibbs said.

Proft confirmed that he had spoken to Gibbs on Tuesday but said the conversation was private and declined to discuss it.

Republican leaders had imported Keyes from Maryland to take over the Senate race after primary winner Jack Ryan dropped out. But many of those same leaders quickly began distancing themselves from Keyes as he uttered a series of controversial campaign charges and statements that they considered undignified and unnecessary.

Following Tuesday’s loss, top Illinois Republicans, including many conservatives, said Keyes’ harsh rejection of those who do not share his views undermined his campaign.

But on Thursday, Keyes said it was Republicans who were “Republicans in name only,” as well as a news media out to get him, who were responsible for his defeat.

Keyes said he was counting on GOP voters to come “back home on Election Day, rather than vote a socialist into office who stands against everything they profess to believe as Republicans … But maybe that was in part due to the campaign of distortions in the media, so that they were unable … to see what I was standing for.”


Keyes has said he expects to stay in Illinois, and several Keyes staffers and volunteers from out-of-state have said they also may stay.

In his radio appearance, Keyes said that he will be working with his backers to reform the Illinois Republican Party – and push it to re-emphasize the “moral priority” that was foremost in the minds of many who voted for President Bush.

“We are going to be working with folks who have worked with us in the course of this campaign, in order … to speak to the true priority of the heart of the people of Illinois and elsewhere. That is a moral priority,” Keyes said.

(Chicago Tribune correspondent David Mendell contributed to this report.)

(c) 2004, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Alan Keyes

AP-NY-11-04-04 2129EST

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