Hadiya Pendleton

As Obama exits scene, Chicago legacy debated

As Obama exits scene, Chicago legacy debated

As the political stages got bigger for Barack Obama on the way to a historic presidency, so did the size of the rooms he commanded in his adopted city.

Small, at the beginning. The cozy Hyde Park Ramada Inn near the lake to kick off his 1996 state Senate bid. To launch his underdog 2004 U.S. Senate run, a slight upgrade to a small room at Hotel Allegro, a Loop spot long favored by Democrats.

Then the biggest stage of them all, Grant Park, where he and 240,000 supporters celebrated a landslide 2008 victory that made him the nation's first black president.

As Obama returns to Chicago for the final time in office, the venue is a bit smaller. Some of the same faithful who...