The Obama-Lincoln Parallel: A Closer Look

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Barack Obama's arrival in Washington by train today harkens back to the inaugural White House trip of the former President who is Obama's political idol: Abraham Lincoln. In 1861, our 16th President rode the rails through New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania en route to the capital.

"He called it 'my circuitous journey,'" says Lincoln biographer Harold Holzer, an author or editor of 33 books about Lincoln, including his recently published "Lincoln: President-Elect."

"He knew that it was a cockeyed itinerary meant to expose him to as many people as possible. They say 250,000 people saw him - more than had ever cast eyes on a President in the history of the country."

Obama began in Philadelphia, where 148 years ago Lincoln stopped to raise an American flag outside Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was ratified, though in Lincolns' time the flag had only 34 stars on it - one for every state in the then-smaller union.

"It didn't recognize that seven states had seceded," Holzer says.

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