CHICAGO – Barack Obama (search), a rising star in the Democratic Party running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, has hit the campaign trail hard — but not just in his home state.
Obama has been traveling to states like Wisconsin and California to campaign for fellow Democrats in tight races. The move is hardly foolish — the hugely popular state senator who dazzled politicos in his Democratic National Convention (search) keynote address has a cushy lead of 40-plus points over Republican rival Alan Keyes (search).
"Barack Obama is really doing the type of activity we really see of party leaders in Washington, D.C.," said DePaul University (search) political science professor Wayne Steger. "As such, it's not atypical of candidates to do. What's atypical is he's not yet in the Senate."
Obama has already raised more than $14 million, a campaign war chest befitting an incumbent U.S. senator. He's contributed large sums to Democratic interests, starting with nearly $200,000 divided among eight state parties. He's also contributed nearly $300,000 to Senate candidates in 14 states.
"One of the things I have learned in the state legislature is politics is a team sport. It's not an individual sport," Obama said.
But opponent Keyes wonders if the political upstart is perhaps too much of a team player.
"Barack Obama spends a good deal of his time trying to please the people who created him rather than trying to serve the people he's asking for votes from," Keyes charged.
Obama dismissed the characterization, saying that campaigning with fellow candidates such as Colorado's Ken Salazar (search) is smart alliance-building for his potential constituents.
"People recognize that I've worked on behalf of the entire Democratic team, that if we have particular issues and interests in Illinois that I need help on that those folks will remember the efforts we've made on their behalf," he said.
Obama's popularity has caught the eye of the Kerry-Edwards campaign. His communications director said he is waiting for word on where he might be needed to rally support for the Democratic presidential ticket.
Click on the video box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.