Barack Obama’s unconventional personal background contrasts sharply with the roots of his political instincts and career. In Chicago's patronage-happy system, the young pol learned to break bread with conservatives, play to the black masses, and even get his back up when necessary. The Wall Street Journal examines the candidate’s years in Chicago.
"Had he gone to Cleveland or New York or Atlanta, it might have been a different path," says a Chicago strategist. The roots of his current stump speeches extend to his 1996 campaign for state senate: "The political debate is now so skewed, so limited, so distorted," he said at the time. "People are hungry for community; they miss it. They are hungry for change."