The First Time I Met Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama

Stuart Rothenberg January 17, 2017 · 8:30 AM EST

With the end of the Obama Administration approaching, I recently looked back at the notes from my two meetings with Barack Obama during his run for the United States Senate.  Obama was not well known then, and he was regarded as nothing more than a long-shot for the Democratic nomination. 

I first met then-state Sen. Barack Obama on September 13, 2002, almost a year to the day after the attacks of 9/11. The second meeting was almost a year later, on September 26, 2003. 

The initial meeting was relatively brief and introductory. Normally, I wouldn’t meet a candidate for a 2004 race before the 2002 elections were over, but Democratic consultant Joe McLean, who phoned me to meet his Democratic Senate hopeful, wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

Initially, McLean told me only that he had a terrific candidate. It was only after I agreed to meet the man that Joe told me his name: Barack Obama. When I heard the name, I was doubly sure that I would be wasting my time. After all, Osama bin Laden was in the news often, and some Illinois voters were likely to confuse Osama and Obama.

I was skeptical that this Obama could compete in Chicago’s ethnic wards, the suburbs or downstate. But I had given my word to Joe.

Much of the meeting was devoted to Obama’s bio. My notes show “born Hawaii”…

2018 Senate Overview: Opportunity vs. Responsibility

Nathan L. Gonzales January 13, 2017 · 2:00 PM EST

It’s early. The dust has barely settled on the 2016 elections and seven new senators have been in office for less than a couple of weeks, but the 2018 midterm elections have already begun. 

Some potential candidates are already posturing for statewide bids and at least a dozen vulnerable…

2018 Senate Overview (January 13, 2017) Alabama-Maine

Nathan L. Gonzales January 13, 2017 · 1:59 PM EST

ARIZONA - Jeff Flake (R) elected 2012 (49%). Compared to fellow Grand Canyon State Sen. John McCain, whom grassroots Republicans regard as insufficiently conservative, Flake has generally toed the conservative line, except on immigration. But because of his private clashes with Trump during the…

2018 Senate Overview (January 13, 2017) Maryland-Ohio

Nathan L. Gonzales January 13, 2017 · 1:58 PM EST

MARYLAND -    Ben Cardin (D) elected 2006 (54%), 2012 (56%). Unless popular GOP Gov. Larry Hogan decides to challenge Cardin instead of seeking re-election (which he’s not going to do), Republicans aren’t going to win this seat. In 2016, Clinton defeated Trump 60-34 percent and Democrat Chris Van…

2018 Senate Overview (January 13, 2017) Oklahoma-Wyoming

Nathan L. Gonzales January 13, 2017 · 1:57 PM EST

PENNSYLVANIA - Bob Casey, Jr. (D) elected 2006 (59%), 2012 (54%). With Trump’s 49-48 percent win over Clinton and Sen. Pat Toomey’s re-election in 2016, Republicans are feeling emboldened about their chances of defeating Casey next year. There was a moment when Casey’s 2012 race looked to be in…