“I’m not sure he was close to anyone,” Mr. Hutchinson said, except for a few liberal constitutional law professors, like Cass Sunstein, now an occasional adviser to his campaign. Mr. Obama was working two other jobs, after all, in the State Senate and at a civil rights law firm.
Because he never fully engaged, Mr. Obama “doesn’t have the slightest sense of where folks like me are coming from,” Mr. Epstein said. “He was a successful teacher and an absentee tenant on the other issues.”
So even some former students who are thrilled at Mr. Obama’s success wince when they hear him speaking like the politician he has so fully become.
“When you hear him talking about issues, it’s at a level so much simpler than the one he’s capable of,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “He was a lot more fun to listen to back then.”