I've had some fortuitous assignments while covering Illinois politics for the Chicago Tribune. The first race I was assigned to: Rahm Emanuel's initial Congressional campaign. The second: Rod Blagojevich's campaign for Illinois governor. Finally: Barack Obama's quest for the U.S. Senate. Getting to know each candidate intimately, with the access only a long campaign trail provides, is still paying journalistic dividends.
Here's a link to my New Yorker profile of Rod Blagojevich from last summer. Ben Smith of Politico blogged about the piece here