Sen. Barack Obama has been traveling the country to stump for fellow Democrats. But uppermost in the minds of many is his hinting on national television about a possible 2008 campaign for president.
Intellectual yet unassuming, the Illinois Democrat rose from working-class parents of different races to earn degrees from Columbia and Harvard. With his gift for oratory, during his short time on the national stage, he has inspired those of many political persuasions with a workable mix of idealism and common sense.
Obama joins a short list of American political figures, which includes former Secretary of State Colin Powell whom large numbers of people want to run for president, but who have not yet done so.
This raises their stock even more, of course; they become modern-day versions of Cincinnatus, the ancient general who legend says had to be coaxed from his farm to become dictator of Rome.
As has been repeatedly said regarding Powell, when such revered figures actually decide to run, they become real human beings — and the intense scrutiny of their records by the media and their political opponents renders them even more so.
Obama’s appeal has much to do with his lack of a national record as he has avoided controversial issues since his election two years ago.
Indeed, at 45 and in his first Senate term, Obama could spend the next decade or so gaining in stature by amassing a national record and then run for president in his mid-50s.
Henry Clay, who sought the presidency in 1832 but failed, once said he would rather be right than be president. For those who seek to be both, is it better to run after getting more experience, but also more scrutiny and enemies, or is it better to be, as Obama is now, a relatively new voice with a large following — and on the cover of Time magazine?
Whatever Obama decides to do, it seems as though he plans in the short term to continue to inspire voters in places far removed from the farms and cornfields of Illinois.