Since you used to live in Illinois, I wonder when you first heard of Obama, since when you paid attention to him, and what your impressions of him were until the 2004 election.
I wish I had an exciting answer to this, such as hanging around the ‘jects with my homie, talking about conquering conlangs and Congress. But I don’t think I heard about him much before his 2004 Senate election. I’ve always been interested in him; it’s rare that we have a politician that’s both intelligent and charismatic. Of course we love our Obama in Illinois… he won his Senate seat with 70% of the vote, and won the Democratic primary this year with 65%.