Actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck may well have been the first person to prophesy publicly in Southern California that Barack Obama would become president, although not necessarily as soon as January 20. On Oct. 27, 2006, Obama came to USC to back Proposition 87 and speak at a California Democratic Party get-out-the-vote rally. Affleck introduced Obama before he endorsed the ultimately unsuccessful initiative that would have raised taxes on oil companies to fund research into alternative energy.
"He is very, very likely--though good luck in getting him or anyone else to say so--at one point, eventually down the road, at some point, in my opinion and many others, the future of this country," Affleck said.
Affleck also said of Obama--who was elected to the Senate from Illinois in 2004--"In a short time, he has already proven himself to be the most galvanizing leader to come out of either party in my opinion in at least a decade and a half, if not more."
Later that day, Obama self-deprecatingly described himself as "the flavor of the month." For much of 2006, Obama had said he would not run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. But five days before his visit to USC, Obama said on "Meet the Press" that he has "thought about the possibility, but I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required."
"After Nov. 7, I'll sit down and consider, and if at some point I change my mind, I will make a public announcement."
The public announcement came on Feb. 10, 2007 in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill. Ten days later, Obama came to Southern California for the first time as a presidential candidate, days after a USA Today/Gallup Poll put the support for his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination at 21 percent, compared to 40 percent for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. A few thousand people came to hear Obama speak at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex in Baldwin Village.
"The fact is that there's something happening in the country," Obama told the cheering crowd.
"There's a mood in the air. There's a sense that the way we've been doing business for the last couple of decades has to change--that we are at a crossroads in this nation's history. We're at a crossroads internationally and we're at a crossroads domestically."
Obama also assailed the Iraq War as a conflict "that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged."
Obama also raised $1.3 million at a $2,300-per person celebrity-studded reception at the Beverly Hilton that night. Obama came to the Los Angeles area five more times in 2007, mainly for campaign fundraisers that were closed to the news media. However, he also spoke at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Los Angeles, where he told parishioners he would "usher in a new America" if elected, and at a Brentwood gas station where he said the nation needs to adopt a California-like standard for low-carbon fuels.
At a forum Aug. 9, 2007 on issues affecting the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, Obama declined to back off from opposition to same-sex marriage, but said he would continue to support a civil union that provides all the benefits of a legally sanctioned marriage. Obama visited Southern California six times in 2008, including three times for fundraisers. Obama spoke at a modest Van Nuys home Jan. 16 to promote his proposal to change bankruptcy laws and cap interest rates; debated Clinton at the Kodak Theatre Jan. 31, five days before the "Super Tuesday" primaries; and joined his Republican rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion Aug. 16 at Lake Forest.
Obama raised more than $4 million June 24 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; $1.2 million in Newport Beach July 13; and untold millions for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee in two Beverly Hills events Sept. 16.