Early on I had mixed feelings about Barak Obama, on the one hand he clearly is an extremely smart, significently capable legislator (got complex issues passed with bi-partisan support), and a rising star in the Democratic party. However, in the primaries I disagreed with him over Iraq and his ferverntly anti-war position (spoke at demonstrations against the war in fact), so I supported a different candidate (and neighbor of mine).
Now, however, he clearly is the favorite to win here in Illinois (the Republicans do not even have a candidate at the moment and are highly unlikely to have one that I would even consider voting for given their positions on social issues).
In his speech last night he went a very, very long way towards getting not just my vote but my active and interested support. Specifically he presented a message tailored towards the center (where I am as a centrist independent) and with a reasoned position on international affairs, more reasonable than I expected.
In his campaign site he has a blog, many of the comments on his speech are suggesting that we may have just seen the start of a national career, of someone who could be the first black president of the US (likely in 2012 if the people on the site have their way.)
I think this is not unlikely, though I suspect more likely is for Hillary Clinton to run in 2012 (though if, as I hope, Kerry/Edwards are elected this year and again in 2008, Edwards clearly will be a candidate to contend with as well). Barak Obama clearly, however, will be a leading and rising star for the Democratic party.
As a centrist, I hope, however, that he and the Democratic Party in general keep firmly to the center, rather than drifting as far to the left as the Republicans have to the religious conservative right.
I have at many times in the past expressed my personal wish for a strong, vibrant, active third party in the US. Baring a real centrist party (Pragmantic Progressives is a label some I know have suggested), a Democratic Party that sticks to being socially libral, but offers restraint and a recognition of the need to remain deeply engaged in the world (militarily if necessary but absolutely economically as well) would be a welcome second option.