Barack Obama

Candidate Profile |

President Barack Obama was propelled to the White House on his message of change. But after inheriting a collapsing economy and substantial debt from the previous administration, and against a stubbornly high unemployment rate, he is seeking a second term.

Obama's unusual background_ he's the Harvard-educated son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya _ has helped him cultivate an image as a fresh face in Washington willing to take on the establishment in his own party as well as Republicans.

A practicing attorney and constitutional law instructor at the University of Chicago, in 1996 Obama ran for and won a seat in the Illinois Senate, where he represented a South Side district until his U.S. Senate run in 2004.

As a state lawmaker, he worked to overhaul Illinois' death penalty, require police to videotape interrogations in murder cases, create a tax credit for poor families and expand health care for children. He made friends and poker buddies on both sides of the aisle and was seen as pragmatic.

In 2000 a primary opponent blocked a run for Congress, but that setback has faded against his strikingly fast rise to national prominence.

Obama began his 2004 Senate campaign as a little-known state lawmaker driving around Illinois, trying to raise money and his profile. By the summer, he had generated enough buzz for Democratic National Convention organizers to offer him a coveted opportunity to deliver a key note speech. He lit up the crowd and walked out of the convention a national political commodity. By Election Day, he was flush with cash and jetting across the country on behalf of other candidates. Obama's original opponent had dropped out of the Senate race, and on Election Day he crushed the replacement _ out-of-state commentator Alan Keyes.

In the U.S. Senate, Obama backed legislation to promote the use of ethanol and to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. He also has advocated for the poor, particularly victims of Hurricane Katrina.

He teamed with conservative GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to back legislation setting up an Internet database of all federal contracts and earmarks to enable citizens to track the way government spends their money.

Obama also rose in popularity and recognition after writing two bestselling books, "Dreams from My Father," and later "The Audacity of Hope," drawing star power from Hollywood's elite including Oprah Winfrey.

Obama announced his first presidential bid in February 2007 and stunned New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by winning the Iowa caucuses and finishing a close second in New Hampshire. Before that, national polls had Obama consistently trailing Clinton, who emphasized her experience in Washington and the political asset represented by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. She has also jumped on some of Obama's statements to portray him as out of his depth on foreign policy.

Obama rejected such complaints. "My call for a new foreign policy is based on the same thing that informed my opposition to the war in Iraq: common sense, not conventional Washington thinking," he said.

Hallmarks of his presidency include the hard-won overhaul of the nation's health care system; implementation of the landmark New START treaty that caps American and Russian nuclear arsenals at their lowest levels since the 1960s; appointment of two women to the Supreme Court, one of whom, Sonia Sotomayor, is the first Hispanic justice. Under his orders, Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader responsible for the 9/11 attacks against the United States, and many other operatives of the terrorist group.

A confident man with an easygoing manner, Obama has said his diverse background probably contributes to his appeal, which crosses racial and geographic lines. Obama and his wife, Michelle, are especially popular among Americans for the importance they place on family, often mentioning their two daughters and reserving weekends for family time.

American Conservative Union Rating: Not rated

Americans for Democratic Action Rating: Not rated

Source: Associated Press

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Latest Headlines

4:04 PM EDT
JUN 30

2 years after spying flap, US, Brazil seek to turn the page

Two years after revelations about U.S. spying frayed ties between their countries, President Barack Obama and visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff publicly closed that chapter Tuesday, declaring that the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil is on an upward swing.

6:06 PM EDT
JUN 29

Obama speaks to Cameron, Tunisian leader in attack aftermath

President Barack Obama is offering U.S. assistance to the investigation into the attack in Tunisia that killed 38 people at a beach resort.

2:02 PM EDT
JUN 26

Obama lauds high court decision on gay marriage

President Barack Obama, who himself has acknowledged an evolution over gay rights, said Friday that the Supreme Court's ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide represents a day when justice "arrives like a thunderbolt."

10:10 AM EDT
JUN 26

Obamacare is now this president's legacy. But it started almost on a whim.

In his book, "The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House," Chuck Todd recounts the unplanned origins of Obama's call for reform.

3:03 PM EDT
JUN 25

Conservatives to the rescue: Obama's health care, trade wins

Cracking the often-lamented partisanship of Washington, a Republican-led Congress and a conservative Supreme Court chief justice delivered back-to-back victories for President Barack Obama's ambitious trade and health care initiatives.

7:07 PM EDT
JUN 24

Obama: US government has let down hostages' families

President Barack Obama conceded Wednesday that the U.S. government had let down the families of Americans held hostage by terrorists and promised they would not face criminal prosecution for paying ransoms to their loved ones' captors.

10:10 PM EDT
JUN 22

Obama hosts annual Ramadan dinner at White House

President Barack Obama said Monday that Americans stand united in rejecting the targeting of any religious or ethnic group as he marked Islam's holy month of Ramadan.

7:07 PM EDT
JUN 19

Obama rejects mass shootings as 'new normal' in America

President Barack Obama said Friday he refuses to accept the idea that regular mass shooting are "the new normal" in America. He acknowledged, though, that it will take a shift in public opinion before the country acts to tighten access to guns.

3:03 AM EDT
JUN 19

Peril, promise in Obama's end game on trade, health, more

For President Barack Obama, an encouraging vote on his trade agenda and a harrowing tragedy in South Carolina showcased the promise and peril of his presidential end game.

12:12 PM EDT
MAY 21

Helping Tunisia realize its democratic promise

The Arab Spring's birthplace can form an lasting partnership with the U.S., say the two countries' presidents.

PROJECT: Wilson Andrews, Jason Bartz, Ryan Kellett, Katie Parker, Leslie Passante and Serdar Tumgoren - The Washington Post. Published Oct. 8, 2012.

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