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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June 2008, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Visiting Barack Obama's backyard
By Iain Mackenzie
Newsbeat US reporter, Chicago

Barack Obama claims he has won the Democratic party's nomination to run for president. But where he's lived, on and off, for the past 20 years - in the South Chicago suburb of Hyde Park - he's talked about by local people with pride and is described as "a wonderful guy".

Barack Obama

This wealthy neighbourhood is all tree-lined streets and expensive houses.

At its heart lies the leafy University of Chicago campus where Barack Obama once taught law.

Chicago University
Leafy Chicago University where Barack Obama used to lecture
Several streets away is the Senator's family home.

An imposing mansion that has become a high-security fortress.

Natasha Marianovitch lives on the same street.

"It's about a three-storey house, brick, with white columns. Pretty nice. There are secret service all over," she says.

"When I'm going to the grocery store I get people driving by, families going 'scuse me, can you tell me where Barack's house is."

It's a long way from the streets of Jakarta in Indonesia where Barack Obama grew up.

Two best-selling books about his childhood and a successful legal career have made him a millionaire.

Despite his middle class lifestyle, his involvement with the poorer Chicago neighbourhoods which surround Hyde Park have made him popular across the class divide.

"He's a wonderful guy," says Tawanda Lucas, who is stopping passers by, looking for change for the bus.

I think that there are white people who are very, very comfortable with him now because they realise that he is genuine
Barack Obama's former barber, Abdul Karim Shakir
"I think he'll do a lot for all of us in this community, everywhere. Get back to how it was a long time ago. It's time for a change."

But not everyone is convinced by Obama's "man of the people" credentials.

He's seen by many as an aloof, academic type.

Beyond his Chicago base, he has consistently failed to find the same support among working class, white Americans that Hillary Clinton enjoyed.

Others have reservations about his lack of experience.

He's only been a Senator for four years, something veteran politician John McCain will use against him.

Outside Domino's Pizza, Elizabeth Mayor is taking a cigarette break.

Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day
Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day in 1992
She says she's worried about the experience issue, but is also put off by the one time she met Obama.

"I saw him in the grocery store and I had this friend from Kentucky, and she was really excited.

"This was when he just became a Senator. He saw us looking and he just turned his head and I thought, 'Oh well.'"

First impressions last when you're a politician.

Now he's running for president it's unlikely Obama will make those kind of mistakes.

Someone who has seen the back of his head on a regular basis is his former barber, Abdul Karim Shakir.

The Senator now has his hair cut in private, but Abdul remembers the many years he would sit alongside other customers.

He says: "He never talked politics when he came into the barber shop. It was like sanctuary."

While political debate was left at the door, Barack Obama's growing celebrity was harder to shake off.

Calypso restaurant
Barack and Michelle Obama's favourite restaurant in Chicago
He adds: "People acted like he was a movie star. Shucks, I guess he was a step under Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan."

On Obama's appeal to white voters, Abdul believes that his personality will win them over.

He says: "I think that there are white people who are very, very comfortable with him now because they realise that he is genuine."

For the Hyde Park Salon, there is a sense of pride at possibly becoming barbers by Presidential appointment.

"Someone like me who is able to say I have known him for 15-16 years being able to actually say, that is my friend. That in itself is phenomenal."



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