If Alan Keyes can't make up for lost time in Illinois, the GOP will likely have to go at least two more years without a single black member of Congress. For a president committed to wooing minority voters, that's a deeply embarrassing statistic.
Before Mr. Keyes rode into Illinois, Georgia was the Republicans' best hope for putting a new face on the party. With a former Bush aide running for the House and a pizza magnate running for the Senate, the Georgia GOP was poised to diversify single-handedly the right side of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
Those hopes were shattered on Aug. 10, when 35-year-old Dylan Glenn, who is black, lost to a white state lawmaker in a GOP runoff to represent Georgia's 8th Congressional District. Three weeks earlier, businessman Herman Cain stumbled in his bid to become the first black senator from Georgia.
Both Mr. Glenn and Mr. Cain found deep support among the socially conservative wing of the state GOP, and some interpreted their losses as a sign of evangelical voters' waning influence. But Sadie Fields, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, thinks that analysis misses the point.
"The Republican Party didn't really know either one of them because they hadn't worked within the state party," she says. Although Mr. Cain was born in Georgia, he moved away at the start of a career that eventually took him to the top of the Godfather's Pizza chain. Likewise, Mr. Glenn spent most of his working life in Washington, not Georgia.
Despite pleas by the likes of Newt Gingrich ("Our cause and our party are weakened by our inability to have representation from every aspect of America," he wrote in a controversial e-mail), Georgia Republicans seemed to pick nominees based on their roots rather than their race. Both Lynn Westmoreland (House) and Johnny Isakson (Senate) have labored for decades in the Georgia Republican Party.
That attitude could spell trouble for Mr. Keyes in Illinois. And it means the GOP will have to find homegrown conservatives within the African-American community if it hopes to broaden its appeal.