SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The pomp and circumstance of the presidential announcement is over for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, and now it's on to the real work.
After announcing his run for the White House Saturday in Illinois' capital city, Obama headed to Iowa where observers say he's wise to start laying the groundwork for that state's leadoff caucuses.
He goes from there to his hometown of Chicago for a rally and fundraiser -- where he's sure to pick up some much-needed campaign dough -- before heading to New Hampshire, which traditionally has the nation's first primary.
"The more face time you get in Iowa the sooner, the better -- and the same in New Hampshire,'' said James Nowlan, a senior fellow at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
It's a hectic pace in Obama's brand new campaign that will only get more harried in a crowded field of candidates for the Democratic nomination that includes Sen. Hillary Clinton and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
"This is the first step in a long, long journey,'' said Obama political strategist David Axelrod. "The most important thing he needs to do is let people get to know him more than they know him now, understand what his life has been about, understand what his history has been.''
Obama, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, shot up the political celebrity ladder that year after delivering a major speech at the Democratic National Convention. He has also gained fame as the author of two best-selling books and the subject of magazine covers and TV shows.
His campaign kicked off Saturday in Illinois' capital city of Springfield, where police estimated between 15,000 and 17,000 people came to watch Obama begin a race that could make him the first Black president.
By going to Iowa first, Obama is signaling to the movers and shakers there that he wants their help building the networks that make success in their caucuses possible.
"You have to start building on the ground in Iowa early,'' said Daniel Galvin, an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University.
Galvin said it's savvy of Obama to tuck in a visit to Chicago in between stumping in those two other key states.
"He has to tip his cap to Chicago,'' Galvin said.
-- The Associated Press