Leading article: A symbolic moment for America as Obama sets out for the White House

His many fans - and perhaps his rivals too - believe he could be elected the first black President of the United States

Share

Today's announcement by Senator Barack Obama that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the US presidency should be an inspiring occasion, and a highly symbolic one, too. The 45 year-old senator for Illinois has chosen to stake his claim at the same State Capitol building in Springfield where Abraham Lincoln, the liberator of America's slaves, served his political apprenticeship. Mr Obama's many fans - and perhaps some of his rivals too - believe he could be elected the first black President of the United States.

Much can happen between now and November 2008. The public announcement is the very first step on a testing marathon of a campaign. Even to have a realistic shot at the presidency, Mr Obama has to raise a mountain of money and continue to raise it. He has to recruit a veritable army of advisers. He has to tailor his appeal separately to the states where the early primaries are held, and then broaden it again for the states whose delegates will decide the party convention. Only then will his name even figure on the presidential ballot. He then has to possess the reserves of energy necessary to criss-cross the country many times until the final exhausting and exhilarating coast-to-coast sprint to get the vote out.

At this very early stage, this comparatively young senator has a lot going for him. He clearly has the appetite for higher office and appears to have the energy for the rigours of the campaign. He has personal charisma and eloquence in abundance. And while he has only two years behind him in the US Senate, he is no political novice. He has eight years' experience in his state legislature. It is executive - rather than political - experience that he lacks.

He also has one signal policy advantage. In an election where the Iraq war is likely to be an issue, Mr Obama has the distinction of having opposed it all along. This was an easier course, to be sure, for a state politician who did not have the national security card waved in his face by the Bush White House at every turn. But it gives his arguments a consistency, and allows him to claim a degree of foresight, that his more experienced rivals will be unable to match.

These are, it cannot be stressed too much, very early days in the 2008 presidential race. But the enthusiastic head of steam Mr Obama's incipient campaign has already built up starts the contest on an especially positive note. It marks a new stage in the long overdue entry of black Americans into the political mainstream. In Colin Powell, the US had its first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and its first black Secretary of State. In Condoleezza Rice, it has had its first black woman in the top echelons of the administration. There are more black members of this Congress than of any previous one. The time must surely come when colour is no longer remarked upon in US politics. The US, it should be noted, is streets ahead of Britain in this respect.

Mr Obama's presence will not be the only novel feature of the 2008 campaign. The most open for very many years, it will be a campaign of firsts. Hillary Clinton, senator for New York and wife of Bill, will be the first woman with a realistic chance of the nomination. Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, will be the first Mormon candidate with national appeal. Add into the mix the colourful former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, senator John McCain of Arizona, whose hero's biography and Straight Talk Express brought him a national following in 2000; and John Edwards, the populist lawyer and former senator from North Carolina - and there is already a contest to savour. Bring it on, we say. The era of George W Bush cannot end too soon.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas