By 1999, Obama's success and hard work had established him as a politician with charisma and drive, according to the A&E video.
However, Obama had a political misstep when he was running against incumbent Bobby Rush for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Important gun control legislation was going to be voted on in the state Senate, and a close vote was foreseen. Although Obama supported the bill, he was in Hawaii and decided to stay with his ill daughter instead of returning when the bill was put on the floor.
Without Obama's vote, the bill did not pass, and Rush used Obama's absence against him in his own campaign, saying, "there was no excuse for missing a pivotal vote."
Obama lost the election to Rush but returned to the state Senate and passed 27 pieces of legislation over the next four years.
In 2003, Obama entered the race for the U.S. Senate. He won the 2004 Illinois primary after his main opposing candidate Jack Ryan dropped out because of exposed scandals.
Obama made the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. This defining moment in his career made him one of the United States' premier black leaders, said Mendell.
On Nov. 2, 2004, Obama became the fifth black senator in the U.S. Senate, at the age of 43.
Once in office, Obama was the first to raise the threat of avian flu on the Senate floor, speak out for victims of Hurricane Katrina and push for alternative-energy development and improved veterans' benefits.
He also worked with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., to eliminate gifts of travel on corporate jets by lobbyists to members of Congress.
In December 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, marking the first enactment of federal legislation primarily sponsored by Obama.
As a U.S. senator, Obama held assignments on various committees, including Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Veterans' Affairs.
On June 3, 2008, Obama captured the delegates necessary to become the first black nominee for president of the United States.
On his website, Obama said: "I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... I'm asking you to believe in yours."