It’s official. President Obama has launched his reelection campaign.
Well, not “official” in the sense of brass bands and patriotic bunting and “a chicken in every pot” (which Herbert Hoover never said, by the way). And cynics, of course, will say that he’s been running for a second term since the minute he finished taking his oath of office January 20, 2009.
But last week seemed to kick-start things in a big way.
The Obama campaign released its documentary film “The Road We’ve Traveled,” directed and narrated by Academy Award winners Davis Guggenheim and Tom Hanks. As the Monitor’s Linda Feldmann reported, “It’s an infomercial, aimed at reminding the legions who voted for Obama four years ago why they liked him and why they should get excited again – and donate and volunteer.”
On Friday, Obama attended five fundraisers, three in Atlanta and two in Chicago. And he’s unleashed Joe Biden to do what the Vice President does best: stir the political pot with full-throated campaign rhetoric designed to secure friends and needle political opponents.
Obama (so far) has not criticized the Republican presidential hopefuls by name, although he has begun mocking them – as “founding members of the Flat Earth Society” for dismissing alternate means of energy production, for example.
But Biden, relishing his political attack dog role, has not held back.
"Look, I want to tell you what's real bankruptcy. The economic theories of Gingrich, Santorum and Romney – they are bankrupt. If you give any one of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class again."
It’s the kind of rhetoric that’s helped win Obama the 2012 endorsement of major labor unions, including the UAW, the Communications Workers of America, and the American Federation of Teachers – sources that will provide contributions and grassroots campaign volunteers.
But even before last week’s events, the Los Angeles Times reports, the Obama political machine was hard at work:
“The campaign has spent months and tens of millions of dollars building an on-the-ground and cyberspace organization earlier and larger than any previous presidential campaign. By January it already had a payroll to rival a professional baseball team, albeit a small-market one. The Obama effort has staff in every state. Its tentacles, which reach into red territory such as Wyoming, are all over the key battlegrounds. It has 15 field offices in Florida and 10 each in Ohio and Pennsylvania. A cavernous Chicago headquarters – 50,000 square feet in a high-rise overlooking the city skyline – is the hub.”
One aspect of that “cyberspace organization” may raise eyebrows.
In a long piece headlined “Obama's campaign is watching you,” Politico.com’s Dave Levinthal reports that “Obama for America has already invested millions of dollars in sophisticated Internet messaging, marketing and fundraising efforts that rely on personal data sometimes offered up voluntarily – like posts on a Facebook page – but sometimes not.”
“According to a campaign official and former Obama staffer, the campaign’s Chicago-based headquarters has built a centralized digital database of information about millions of potential Obama voters,” Levinthal writes. “It all means Obama is finding it easier than ever to merge offline data, such as voter files and information purchased from data brokers, with online information to target people with messages that may appeal to their personal tastes. Privacy advocates say it’s just the sort of digital snooping that his new privacy project is supposed to discourage.”
Obama has good reason to round up all the help he can.
Obama beats each of the four Republican hopefuls in mock elections, and as the economy began to improve (if slowly), his approval ratings had been inching upward in some polls.
But with the recent rise in gas prices, Obama’s approval ratings have notched back downward. And with the recent massacre of Afghan villagers, allegedly by a US Army soldier, American may become more disillusioned than ever with the 10-year war in Afghanistan – now clearly “Obama’s war.”