Sen. Barack Obama's face is everywhere these days — on front pages and TV, magazine covers and blogs. But how well do people really know him? Obama, born in Hawaii, is the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya who left the family when Obama was 2.
Ten facts about Obama that might come as a surprise:
RENEGADE: The code name used for Obama by his Secret Service detail. He was given his choice of several names starting with R, and that's the one he picked. Aside from former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama is the only presidential candidate with Secret Service protection.
MALCOLM X: Today Obama quotes Martin Luther King Jr., but in his college days it was the autobiography of militant Malcolm X that grabbed his attention more than any other black writer. "His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me," Obama has said. This also was the period when Obama stopped using the nickname "Barry" in favor of his full name.
NEVER FACED A SERIOUS OPPONENT: Running in heavily Democratic Chicago, Obama never faced a significant Republican foe in his state Senate races. In his U.S. Senate race, the original Republican nominee dropped out, and GOP leaders brought in commentator Alan Keyes from Maryland. Keyes had little money and managed to alienate voters from both parties. Years earlier, Obama got his first opponents knocked off the ballot. He challenged the petition signatures that three rivals filed, and election officials concluded he was the only one with the proper paperwork, leaving him unopposed in the 1996 Democratic primary.
NO SMOKING: His wife, Michelle, used her leverage when the couple was discussing whether he should run for president. She would agree only if Obama agreed to give up smoking, a vice he had been hiding from the public. So far, he hasn't been spotted relapsing.
ROBERT KENNEDY'S DESK: Obama's desk in the Senate is the same one used by Bobby Kennedy, the former attorney general, New York senator and 1968 Democratic presidential candidate who was assassinated in Los Angeles. Other senators who had the desk included Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. of Massachusetts, Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Paul Simon of Illinois.
RELIGION: Obama grew up without any particular religious beliefs. His mother was not religious, and his father was an atheist. Obama joined the United Church of Christ as a young man in Chicago, saying he was inspired by the good work of Christians he had met and "felt God's spirit beckoning me."
ENCOUNTERS WITH RACISM: Obama's book "Dreams From My Father" gives several examples of racist remarks he says he encountered while growing up in multicultural Hawaii. A schoolmate called him a "coon" and got a bloody nose in response. A tennis pro joked that Obama shouldn't touch a schedule because his color would rub off on it. A basketball coach used the "N word" to complain about losing to a team of black players.
LOBBYISTS: Obama doesn't accept campaign contributions from lobbyists or political action committees, but that's a change from his past practices. He accepted their donations until he launched his presidential campaign.
HAD A PET APE AS A CHILD: Obama lived in Indonesia for nearly five years as a child and had a pet ape named Tata. He also sampled exotic foods — dog, snake and grasshopper. Obama says living in Indonesia helped him appreciate life in America and understand this country's place in the world.
BASKETBALL AND POKER: Obama's favorite sport is basketball. Opponents say he's a skilled, tenacious player, making up for athletic limitations with hustle and brains. He also played poker frequently when he was a state lawmaker, developing a reputation for studying the cards and playing the odds.