President Obama switched it on Thursday night, framing the terms of his bid for a second term to a hometown Chicago crowd, pandering only a little when he pulled on a Bulls cap at the end of his speech at Navy Pier, the event designed to jazz up the grass-and net-roots younger crowd. He dusted off “Yes we can,” to conclude, the anthem of 2008.
At Navy Pier — where the cheapest ticket was $100 — and at MK Restaurant — with a $35,800-per-person tab — Obama laid out the foundational arguments to re-create for the 2012 vote the 2008 campaign — akin to a movement — born with the slogans “Hope” and “Change.”
‘There is “unfinished business,” Obama said. The “vision hasn’t changed. What we care about hasn’t changed. Our commitments should not have changed. And so this campaign is not my campaign; this is your campaign. And the question is do we finish the job. I’m prepared to finish the job. I hope you are, too.”
Obama’s re-election campaign in its initial stage will focus on big money fund-raising from major donors and, before tapping their wallets, rebuilding support from the grass-and-net-roots supporters who were the backbone of his 2008 bid — who may have to be coaxed some to come back.
White House senior adviser David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager — a rock star to the 2008 volunteer army, spoke to some 2,300 people at Navy Pier with an appeal to the youngish crowd. Said Plouffe, “This generation, your generation, elected a president once, and we need you to do it again. If the people who normally vote in presidential elections vote and that’s it, the usual suspects, this election will be way too close for any of our comfort.
“. . . There are only 572 days left to the next election. That may seem like a lot of time, but you know, it will be here before we know it,” Plouffe said.
Obama’s three fund-raisers scooped up more than $2 million, with the early money going to hire a staff and build out the Prudential Building national headquarters, in the city’s landmark high-rise.
Talking to a variety of sources, I’ve learned:
† The first Obama 2012 staffers will be sent to the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in May. Though Obama has no primary, he does have a large group of GOP 2012 presidential hopefuls and other Republicans attacking him. Pushing back against Republicans in those primary states also gives Obama 2012 volunteers tasks to do in the run-up to the general election.
† The 2012 campaign is being run in a different environment. You can only be the first African American president one time around. The barrier has been broken. While a lot of emphasis is on fund-raising, the biggest gift the Obama team has now is time — to deal with base supporters who are disappointed with Obama’s performance.
† The Obama team sees many roads to winning a second term, even if they lose Florida and Ohio. A new state, Arizona, is seen as possible this time around; not so in 2008, when Arizona Sen. John McCain was the GOP presidential nominee. As in 2008, Obama will run a 50-state campaign.
† Social media in 2012 is completely different from 2008. The most significant new media for the Obama team in 2012 may be apps on mobile devices; laptops are passé with a younger crowd. Twitter was new in 2008 and relatively minor in the Obama universe, with some 80,000 followers at the end of the campaign. On Thursday night, Obama’s official Twitter account had 7,404,242 followers.
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