Barack Obama arrives in Denver today one election away from the presidency—a far cry from the 2000 convention, when he couldn't even get a seat on the floor. As Al Gore received the Democrats' nomination in Los Angeles, the state senator barely had enough money to rent a car. "I have no memory of him there," Obama's Illinois colleague Dick Durbin told the New York Times.
Obama's first Democratic convention, in 1996, left him disillusioned; uninvited to the high-priced feasts and fundraisers, the law professor complained, "The convention's for sale, right?" Only in 2004, when the Senate candidate delivered the keynote address, did Obama's career take off—and even then, on the trip home he had to endure extra security checks because of his name.