I was at one of several dozen pre-inaugural brunches various Obama aides hit yesterday. (Special thanks to my friends at The Daily Beast.) Our Obama celebrity was David Axelrod, who showed up late and was quickly mobbed by well-wishers, as you'd expect. This prompted a journalist-friend to remark how amazing it was that Axelrod had become such a bigshot. It was only four-and-a-half years ago, he recalled, that he'd call up Axelrod whenever he needed a quote from a Democratic consultant. There was exceedingly little fanfare involved back then.

This, in turn, prompted me to recall how much of a non-celebrity Obama was when I met him four-and-a-half years ago. I distinctly remember trailing him around some cloak room or caucus room in the Illinois state senate in April of 2004. This attracted a lot of attention from his colleagues, and one of them--a middle-aged white woman, if I remember correctly--finally asked who I was. "He's from The New Republic," Obama told her. I might have imagined it, but I got the impression people were pretty impressed.

As the philosopher-poet Chris Matthews would say: "Ha!"

--Noam Scheiber