The Presidential Primary
Following Obama's speech at the DNC, he became a recognizable figure. He was attracting attention whenever he went out in public, even when he was just attempting to do regular activities with his family, like take his daughter to the Lincoln Park Zoo. And many people were urging him to run for president.
While he had his doubts at first, by 2006, running for president not only seemed possible, it seemed almost inevitable. The media continued to press him on the topic, and fellow politicians also began encouraging him to run. Harry Reid, a senator from Nevada, urged him to consider running. But Obama credited Senator Ted Kennedy with ultimately convincing him to run. Kennedy visited Obama and told him: “Moments like this are rare. You think you may not be ready. But you don't choose the time. The time chooses you.”
In February 2007, Obama announced his plans to run for president. He then immediately began campaigning in critical Iowa, and his campaign events drew thousands, which was practically unheard of. However, despite Obama's popularity, he still had quite a few drawbacks. He was young, inexperienced, and often came across as too academic and long-winded. His opponents used the media to deliver their message, while Obama tried to address each interviewer's specific questions.
However, the Obama campaign had its own unique advantages. The first advantage was David Axelrod, who was leading the campaign. They also had a large number of grassroots donors, which contributed greatly to the campaign's fundraising efforts. The campaign also had droves of young volunteers, who turned up in Iowa to offer their support. His clear popularity made other candidates nervous. Hillary Clinton, who had been the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, was particularly perturbed, and the two campaigns began warring. The tension between the Obama and Clinton campaigns built up until it finally culminated with the two candidates yelling at each other on a tarmac in Des Moines. However, despite the growing pressure, Obama won Iowa by eight points.
However, Obama lost the next primary race in New Hampshire. Obama now credits this loss by helping him understand just how difficult the race was going to be. Soon, the campaign faced more problems. Obama was on track to be the first Black president, which caused many racial issues to surface. First, Obama had to deal with the aftermath of a sermon given by an old friend of his named Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In the service, Reverend Wright spoke about white supremacy and Black inferiority, which raised issues with the Black community. Some people thought Obama wasn't “Black enough” to fully represent them, while other people were convinced America simply wasn't ready to have a Black president at all.
While Obama was receiving pressure from the Black community, he was also dealing with right-wing attacks in the media, many of them race-based. Conservative news organizations like Fox began spreading rumors about Obama, including that he had once been a drug dealer and a homosexual prostitute. One segment described Michelle Obama, his wife of fifteen years, as his “Baby Mama.”
Despite the setbacks and attacks, Obama stayed the course. A historic number of Black voters turned out for Obama in South Carolina, and he continued to win. But he wasn't just popular with the Black community. People from all walks of life attended his speeches and rallies, cheering, crying, and some even asking to touch him or have him hold their children.
These rallies were great for building up morale, but they also raised another potential problem. With so many different people's hopes and dreaming riding on him, he feared there was no way he could meet everyone's expectations. To make matters worse, around this time the media had gotten wind of a compilation video of inflammatory remarks that had been made by Reverend Wright. The right-wing press seized on the video, and many voters who were uncomfortable voting for a Black person used this video as justification. The campaign feared this may be the end.
Obama decided the only way out of his predicament was to address racial issues directly. He composed a speech addressing not only Reverend Wright, but the many different narratives of race that were a part of his story. He touched on his white Grandmother, who was related to him but was still sometimes nervous passing Black strangers. Most importantly, Obama wanted the speech to be truthful, and it paid off. Within 24 hours, a record one million people watched Obama's speech, and it soon became clear Obama would be the Democrat's nominee for president.