How a lot can change in eight years:
He was drained of money and confidence, fresh from a punishing defeat in a Congressional primary race here. Even the Illinois delegation did not have room at the party’s gathering in Los Angeles for Mr. Obama, then a 39-year-old lawyer, who had annoyed some state Democrats for not waiting his turn to seek a higher office.
Never mind all that. Mr. Obama bought a plane ticket and headed west anyway.
He persuaded a clerk at the car rental agency to overlook the unpaid balance on his credit card, and he made his way to the festivities. He was not a delegate — not even close to being a superdelegate — and without a floor credential he had all the sway of the junior state senator that he was.
As he wrote in his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” he was frustrated by his lack of access. “I ended up watching most of the speeches on various television screens scattered around the Staples Center,” he wrote, “occasionally following friends or acquaintances into skyboxes where it was clear I didn’t belong.”
So he left one day before Al Gore accepted the party’s nomination. This time? Mr. Gore is one of the leading warm-up acts for Mr. Obama. He will be seated in Invesco Field when Mr. Obama is on the stage accepting the party’s nomination.