Obama’s future

OBAMA’S FUTURE….For a man with only 11 months in the Senate under his belt, Barack Obama has a knack for impressing people.

The sage of money and finance, America’s second-richest man, seldom becomes invested in politicians. But [Warren Buffett] has made an exception for the junior senator from Illinois, which is precisely why Obama has arrived here on a frosty fall morning, without an overcoat or an entourage.

No television cameras record the moment. No oversize crowds gather. Rather, a mere 16 people — most of whom Obama was meeting for the first time — finish a breakfast of eggs and fresh fruit in the home of Warren Buffett’s daughter, Susie Buffett.

“I’ve got a conviction about him that I don’t get very often,” Warren Buffett explained later in an interview. “He has as much potential as anyone I’ve seen to have an important impact over his lifetime on the course that America takes. […] “If he can do an ounce better with me,” Buffett added, “fine.”

Needless to say, Buffett is hardly the only one who’s impressed. Obama’s legislative record after a year is limited, but his potential is not. The Chicago Tribune noted that Obama has built “a coast-to-coast army of backers,” and given his willingness to campaign with other Democrats, it’s a fair description.

Just this year, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was struggling to raise money, so he turned to Obama. (It worked; Byrd raised nearly $1 million through online donations.) In Virginia, Gov.-elect Tim Kaine relied on Obama repeatedly. In New Jersey, Gov.-elect Jon Corzine brought Obama in shortly before Election Day for a last-minute push. Looking ahead, one has to assume that Obama’s frequent-flier miles will flourish in 2006.

At times, the pressure the political world is putting on this guy is over the top. Obama’s barely unpacked and he’s already asked, a little too often, about his presidential plans. That said, Obama has collected a lot of favors over the last year or so, making a very positive impression along the way. It’s the kind of network that might come in handy.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.