A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it...
But the unsparing legal tactics were justified, [Obama] said, by obvious flaws in his opponents' signature sheets. "To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up," Obama recalled.
Obama was 34.
And he got lucky when he filed his challenge: the city of Chicago had "just completed a massive, routine purge of unqualified names that eliminated 15,871 people from the 13th District rolls."
His competitors had "relied on early 1995 polling sheets to verify the signatures." Would Obama's petition have survived that scrutiny? We'll never know.
Alice Palmer: Trailblazer
Palmer, a native of Indiana (born in 1939), received her PhD from Northwestern, "where she co-authored two books and tutored in the Black House. Palmer remained at Northwestern University to serve as Associate Dean and Director of African American Student Affairs." She was a voter education activist and served as executive director of Chicago Cities Schools. In 1991, she began serving in the Illinois State Senate.
Palmer decided to run for Congress in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Mel Reynolds. Palmer lost the November 1995 election to Jesse Jackson, Jr.; current Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. came in second.
According to the Chicago Tribune, after Palmer lost the special election, "her supporters asked Obama to fold his campaign so she could easily retain her state Senate seat." Instead, on 2 January 1996 he challenged the legality of her nomination petition to run for re-election.
Contrary to the net references of Obama as Palmer's "anointed successor," the Trib story makes it clear that Palmer and Obama have vastly different memories of the summer of 1995, when Obama launched his campaign. Palmer asserts she did not "endorse" Obama.
Congressional Race Also Marked By Missing Competitors
Obama's entry into federal politics was also marked by competitors falling by the wayside. He won both the 2004 primary and general election for the US Senate "after tough challengers imploded when their messy divorce files were unsealed," the Trib writes.
Before the primary, Obama was in second place behind Blair Hull when reporters learned that Hull's wife had taken out a restraining order during their 1998 divorce and that he had reportedly threatened to kill her. The publicity killed his campaign; no charges were filed, however. Obama won the primary with 52% of the vote.
The NYT reports that "the Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had 'worked aggressively behind the scenes' to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that [David] Axelrod had an even more significant role - that he leaked the initial story." More hard-ball, perhaps of the Karl Rove type.
Then on 25 June 2004, Obama's Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, withdrew due to yet-another a sex scandal. He and his ex-wife had agreed to a media request to release their sealed divorce papers. A Los Angeles judge disagreed with their desire to keep custody papers sealed.
In those files, Jeri Ryan alleged that Jack Ryan had taken her to sex clubs in several cities, intending for them to have sex in public. At the time of the release, Jeri Ryan, issued had a conciliatory statement, saying that she considered her ex-husband "a friend" and had "no doubt that he will make an excellent senator." She also said that "there was never any physical abuse in our marriage -- either to myself or to our son -- nor, to my knowledge, was he ever unfaithful to me."
The allegations were never proven, and in fact, Ryan was awarded additional custody rights at the end of the hearing, suggesting the allegations were not deemed reliable by the judge.
But his run for the Senate was ruined.
Obama's race for the White House reveals a young man with amazing chutzpah and luck, some of which his team may have fabricated for him. It does not, however, reveal a candidate who disowns hardball politics or politics-as-usual. Far from it.See Obama's Political Career Timeline