Saturday, July 23, 2005


AP: Obama a Celebrity Despite Low-Key Approach


PEKIN, Ill. (AP) - The line forms the moment Sen. Barack Obama is done speaking, a procession of admirers clutching copies of his book, magazines, scraps of paper, disposable cameras and one homemade American flag. It doesn't take long before someone pops the question.

An elderly woman, dressed in bubble-gum pink, looks up with wide eyes. The lanky senator leans in to hear her amid the din in the stuffy library meeting room.

"In 2008 or some other time," she says, "will we get a chance to work for you for president?"

Obama at his Springfield officeObama, left, grins, but demurs. He is not running for president. Not in 2008, at least.

His Senate career is just six months old. And six months before that, few people in America had even heard of this man who was just introducing himself to voters in Illinois.

But one year has passed since Obama's star-making turn at the Democratic convention, and the senator is now a player in two worlds: He's a deliberately low-key newcomer to Capitol Hill, careful to avoid upstaging the powerful old bulls on their home turf. But he's also an A-list celebrity, courted by everyone from Oprah to Gorbachev.

On a scorching July day, Obama has come to this blue-collar community just south of Peoria, seat of a county he and President Bush carried by equally lopsided margins. He's recognized everywhere. As he wraps an arm around a woman celebrating her retirement at C.J.'s Cafe to pose for a photo, a half-dozen friends at her table lift their cell phone cameras and click.

"It's been sort of a whirlwind," Obama says, sipping an iced tea. "Deserved or undeserved, I've received a lot of attention and that can translate into political influence. ... I think my colleagues legitimately see me as somebody who has potential but has just arrived."

Full AP story.

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