Obama’s rapid rise to eminence
He’ll make his speech in Denver Thursday as the first African-American to win his party’s nod.
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Eight years ago he was nobody from nowhere, nationally speaking. Fresh off defeat in a congressional primary, Senator Obama wasn’t even a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. He drifted through L.A.’s Staples Center like an afterthought, watching most of the speeches on TV.
Now he can see history approaching. On Thursday, he’ll step in front of a roaring crowd at Denver’s Invesco Field as the first African-American to win his party’s nod. To his supporters, that will be a turning point in its own right – the kind of moment you make your children watch, so that in later years they can say they remember.
But velocity of success does not necessarily equate to victory in November. Obama may be famous for his orations to large crowds, but in his acceptance speech he will still be introducing himself (via television) to the largest audience he’s ever talked to in his life.
That’s a tough order. To be successful, he may need to do more than prove he can deliver applause lines to 80,000 people primed and ready to cheer.
If they’d seen Obama eight years ago, those voters would not have confused him with, say, Zeus. He’d lost his 2000 bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush by a margin of 2 to 1.
As a junior state senator, Obama still had some electoral status. But according to the scenes he paints in his memoirs, he was an outsider on the national Democratic stage, someone who could barely get in the door at the convention venue – literally.
Charles Lewis met him a few years afterward. Lewis – an Illinois investment banker, now retired – says he’d heard good things about a little-known state senator who was thinking of running for the US Senate.