After having held a substantial lead just a month before the primary, Hull's campaign collapsed with the chatter about his divorce. Obama sailed to the front of the pack and won the primary. Hull finished third with 10 percent of the vote.
As luck would have it, Obama's opponent in the general election had also been divorced! Jack Ryan was tall, handsome, Catholic -- and shared a name with one of Harrison Ford's most popular onscreen characters! He went to Dartmouth, Harvard Law and Harvard Business School, made hundreds of millions of dollars as a partner at Goldman Sachs, and then, in his early 40s, left investment banking to teach at an inner city school on the South Side of Chicago.
Ryan would have walloped Obama in the Senate race. But at the request of -- again -- the Chicago Tribune, California Judge Robert Schnider unsealed the custody papers in Ryan's divorce five years earlier from Hollywood starlet Jeri Lynn Ryan, the bombshell Borg on "Star Trek: Voyager."
Jack Ryan had released his tax records. He had released his divorce records. But both he and his ex-wife sought to keep the custody records under seal to protect their son.
Amid the 400 pages of filings from the custody case, Jack Ryan claimed that his wife had had an affair, and she counterclaimed with the allegation that he had taken her to "sex clubs" in Paris, New York and New Orleans, which drove her to fall in love with another man.
(Republicans: If you plan a career in public office, please avoid marrying a wacko.)
Ryan had vehemently denied her allegations at the time, but it didn't matter. The sex club allegations aired on "Entertainment Tonight," "NBC Nightly News," ABC's "Good Morning America," "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," and NBC's "Today" show. CNN covered the story like it was the first moon landing.
(Interestingly, international papers also were ablaze with the story -- the same newspapers that were supposed to be so bored with American sexual mores during Bill Clinton's sex scandal.)
Four days after Judge Schnider unsealed the custody records, Ryan dropped out of the race for the horror of (allegedly) propositioning his own wife and then taking "no" for an answer.
Alan Keyes stepped in as a last-minute Republican candidate.
And that's how Obama became a U.S. senator. He destroyed both his Democratic primary opponent and his Republican general election opponent with salacious allegations about their personal lives taken from "sealed" court records.
Obama's team delved into Sarah Palin's marriage and spread rumors of John McCain's alleged affair in 2008 and they smeared Herman Cain in 2011 with hazy sexual harassment allegations all emanating from David Axelrod's pals in Chicago.
It's almost like a serial killer's signature. Unsealed personal records have been released to the press. Obama must be running for office!
So you can see what a pickle the Obama campaign is in having to run against a Dudley Do-Right, non-drinking, non-smoking, God-fearing, happily married Mormon.
They've got to get their hands on thousands of pages of Romney's tax filings so that the media can -- as Romney says -- lie about them. It will be interesting to see if Obama can pick the lock of the famously guarded IRS.
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