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Barack Obama took the oath of office as a United States senator on January 4, 2005, and promptly began running for president. Very quickly, he began using the peculiar kind of celebrity that comes with being a senator to introduce himself to Washington, to a new generation of political power brokers, and, more broadly, to the American people.

”He was running for president even as he was still getting lost in the Capitol’s corridors,” the New York Times noted.

Obama pointedly bypassed the Democratic Party power structure, in defiance of the norms of behavior for a junior senator. Obama did not worry about getting better committee assignments, and he did not defer to more senior members when trying to diagnose his party’s problems or in offering prescriptions to fix them. By the fall of 2006, to the surprise of even the most dedicated admirers of his vast political gifts, he was admitting publicly that he was thinking about the White House.

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”With an eye on his next goal, Obama treated the Senate as a bridge to be crossed–a place to learn the conventions of Washington, win powerful friends and shape what advisers referred to as his ‘political brand,”’ the Washington Post reported. ”Despite meager legislative accomplishments, Obama built a reputation among many Democrats as a hard worker, a reformer, an eager learner, a smart politician.” He came to see the Senate not as a place to do things, but a place to be someone.

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