David Maraniss of the Washington Post recounts how the rise of Barack Obama from obscure state senator to president of the United States can be traced to one moment of pure "luck and chance." Flash back to Sept. 5, 2001: Obama is a fifth-year legislator in Illinois who can't make a name for himself because Republicans control the state Senate. He even ran for Congress and lost.
His luck began to change when the Census required Illinois to redraw its legislative maps. To break a deadlock, the secretary of state drew a name from a hat—a replica of Lincoln's—to determine which party would control the process. Democrats won. The party redrew the maps and gained control of the Senate, which allowed Obama to chair committees, travel the state, and make his reputation. "Within two years, the former minority-party backbencher was running for the US Senate," writes Maraniss. "His future was pulled out of Old Abe’s stovepipe hat." (Read more Barack Obama stories.)