WASHINGTON -- The Obama re-election campaign began on Monday near dawn, with an emphasis on re-energizing the grass-and-net roots corps important to his 2008 victory, raising big money and fostering the impression President Obama is too busy on the job to pay much attention to his bid for a second term.
"The president is not focused on elections. He's focused on doing the work that he was elected to do," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
Through a variety of social media -- Twitter, Facebook, plain vanilla e-mail -- starting near 4 a.m. Chicago time, Obama 2012 was launched, complete with a revamped website, a video message, a new line of Obama/Biden 2012 campaign goods, from T-shirts to water bottles, and at least one new slogan: "Are you in?"
Later in the day, the Obama team registered with the Federal Election Commission as a 2012 presidential candidate.
The video targeted specific voting groups from battleground states featuring "Ed," a North Carolina white male; "Gladys," a Nevada Hispanic female and "Katherine"; a Colorado white woman, in addition to an African-American woman and a college-aged white male youth.
And as for a detached president "not focused" on elections: Obama was scheduled to host a massive conference call Monday night to jazz up supporters; he launches his joint Obama 2012/DNC fund-raising drive April 14 with three events in Chicago followed by stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles on April 20 and 21.
In Chicago, Obama 2012/DNC is organizing:
♦ A $35,800-per-person dinner at the MK Restaurant.
♦ Another dinner with tickets from $5,000 to $15,000 at N9NE Steakhouse.
♦ A large reception at the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier with tickets as low as $100.
In an e-mail sent to supporters, Obama said, "So even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today."
That work starts on two main fronts: raising a record amount of money for a presidential campaign -- more than the $750 million Obama collected in 2008 -- and rebuilding a field organization as an incumbent president with a track record. When Obama started his first run for the White House in 2007, he was a senator from Illinois for only two years. His team crafted an aspirational and generational campaign fueled by youths, African Americans, rank-and-file progressives, very wealthy liberals and an anti-war bloc impressed with Obama's criticism of the Iraq war.
The Obama team through the years has found it a challenge to keep their troops engaged when the battles were legislative and for candidates and causes other than Obama -- perhaps a contributing factor to the low voter turnout in 2010 that allowed GOP wins.
To rally the army, the Obama campaign, in partnership with the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America (the Obama for America 2008 organization absorbed by the DNC) is telling rank-and-file volunteers, "the first step of all this is an unprecedented program to hold one-on-one conversations with millions of supporters about where they want this campaign to go -- look for lots of news about that over the next several weeks as the process unfolds."
The campaign is also working more behind the scenes to repair and bolster relations with key constitutienicies. Today, Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina is holding a conference call with the DNC's gay and lesbian advisory board.