As a young community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, Barack Obama was inspired by the extraordinary political success, and the momentous political struggles, of Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor. A skilled coalition-builder and a gifted orator, Washington defeated the handpicked candidates of Chicago’s Democratic political establishment, including a young Richie Daley, before winning a narrow victory over a feisty Republican opponent in a racially charged general election. A surge of black voters, many of whom were casting ballots for the first time, gave Washington his historic victory in 1983. And by the time Obama arrived in Chicago in the summer of 1985, Washington remained extremely popular in the heavily black precincts of the West Side and the South Side, despite his weaknesses as an administrator…

But is the presidency the right job for Barack Obama? Some critics would suggest that while Obama proved to be a gifted candidate, he doesn’t have the right temperament or the right skill set for the White House. In a similar vein, George W. Bush had a gift for connecting with sympathetic audiences during his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, yet his experience as governor of Texas, a state with an unusually weak executive, didn’t necessarily prepare him for the rigors of office. Bill Clinton, in contrast, was a long-serving hands-on governor of a poor state, and the experience served him well. George H.W. Bush also had considerable executive experience, having served as CIA director and as vice president before taking the helm.