Obama exploded onto the nation's political scene at the 2004 Democratic National
Convention, taking the first step in a political career that has seen a state
senator from Illinois catapult into one of top candidates for president in less
than three years.
"The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into
Red States and Blue States," Obama said in 2004. "But I've got news
for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States ... and have gay friends
in the Red States."
Much of the coverage of the first-term senator
has focused on his life story -- born to a white, Kansan mother and Kenyan father
at a time when black/white marriages were illegal in half the states.
Obama has said his campaign will not be preoccupied with race, telling CBS' "60
Minutes," "If I don't win this race it will be because of other factors.
It's gonna be because I have not shown to the American people a vision for where
the country needs to go that they can embrace."
Politically, he is
a left-of-center Democrat who is strongly pro-choice, favors universal health
care and has proposed ending the tax breaks passed by President Bush. Although
he was not in Congress when the Iraq war resolution passed, he said he would have
opposed it and has called for American troops to be removed from Iraq by March
He also has reached out to Republicans, working with '08 rival Sen.
John McCain, R-Ariz., on campaign finance reform and another '08 candidate Sen.
Sam Brownback, R-Kan., to raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur.