The AP succeeds where the NY Times failed:
In Chicago politics, the traditional route to political success has gone through the office of a ward committeeman, whose clout makes or breaks careers. But when Obama first ran, he was a lone wolf — a Harvard-educated, former community organizer beholden to no one. He drew support with the same undramatic, commonsense stump style he showed on the presidential trail.
Throughout his political career in Illinois, Obama has racked up wins without big-name endorsements. He won the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in 2004 without the support of many party power brokers. And he didn't get help from Mayor Richard Daley when he won his first election — his state Senate seat in 1996.
It's a balanced piece -- giving Tony "Another Fine Product From" Rezko his due -- but confirms my sense that of the various criticisms you can make about Obama, "machine hack" is one that doesn't hold much water.