A Streetwise Veteran Schooled Young Obama
By JANNY SCOTT
Published: September 9, 2007
The rise of Barack Obama includes one glaring episode of political miscalculation. Even friends told Mr. Obama it was a bad idea when he decided in 1999 to challenge an incumbent congressman and former Black Panther, Bobby L. Rush, whose stronghold on the South Side of Chicago was overwhelmingly black, Democratic and working class.
Mr. Obama was a 38-year-old state senator and University of Chicago lecturer, unknown in much of Mr. Rush’s Congressional district. He lived in its most rarefied neighborhood, Hyde Park. He was taking on a local legend, a former alderman and four-term incumbent who had given voters no obvious reason to displace him.
Mr. Rush’s name recognition started off at 90 percent, Mr. Obama’s at 11. Then Mr. Rush’s son was murdered, leading Mr. Obama to put his campaign on hold. Later, while vacationing in Hawaii with his family, he missed a high-profile vote in the Legislature and was pilloried. (One Chicago Tribune editorial began, “What a bunch of gutless sheep.”) Then President Clinton endorsed Mr. Rush.
“Campaigns are always, ‘What’s the narrative of the race?’ ” said Eric Adelstein, a media consultant in Chicago who worked on the Rush campaign. “In a sense, it was ‘the Black Panther against the professor.’ That’s not a knock on Obama; but to run from Hyde Park, this little bastion of academia, this white community in the black South Side — it just seemed odd that he would make that choice as a kind of stepping out.”
The episode revealed a lot about Senator Obama — now running for president, against the odds again and with a relatively slim résumé. It showed his impatience with the frustrations of his state Senate job; his outsize confidence; his fund-raising powers; his broad appeal; and his willingness to be what Abner J. Mikva, a former congressman and supporter, calls “a very apt student of his own mistakes.”
It also shed light on the complicated ways that class has played out in Mr. Obama’s political career as a factor entangled with his race. Class emerged as a subtext in the Congressional campaign, along with generational differences that separate Mr. Obama from older black politicians.
Rest of article is here.
It's an interesting article. Studying someone's biggest defeat can also help you figure out the present candidate.