2004 Election: Obama's Ascent

How do you leap from neighborhood activist to U.S. Senator to perhaps higher office? Even for Barack Obama, it's more complicated than it looks

In January Barack Obama, 43, will become the only African American in the U.S. Senate--and just the third in the past 100 years. Although that alone should be ample cause for contemplation, Obama's is really a story about what might be. In the past year, Obama has been compared, in all seriousness, to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bill Clinton. Democrats debate whether he should run for President in 2012 or 2016. "No Chicago pol has heard this kind of flattery since an alderman compared Richard J. Daley to Jesus Christ," noted the Chicago Reader.

In Washington the test...

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