New Obama campaign video: what it may say about his reelection strategy

The Tom Hanks-narrated video, as judged from the just-released trailer, sheds light on the Obama campaign's likely themes. Among them, that voters should take the long view.

Gerry Broome/AP
President Obama speaks during a visit to the Daimler Trucks North America Mount Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Mount Holly, N.C., Wednesday, March 7. Audience members held up four fingers indicating four more years.

President Obama’s reelection campaign released a two-minute trailer Thursday for “The Road We’ve Traveled,” an upcoming short film about the Obama presidency. If the trailer is any guide, the full movie will depict a determined chief executive handling big problems during difficult times.

Narrated by Tom Hanks and directed by the Academy Award-winning Davis Guggenheim, the trailer is also a reminder of the resources that incumbent presidents command. Sure, Ron Paul’s campaign videos are snappy, with quick-cutting computer animation, but can he get the voice of Woody from “Toy Story” to read them? No he can’t.

Of course, Republicans will point out that Mr. Guggenheim won his Academy Award for “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s climate change documentary, but that’s unlikely to bother Mr. Obama’s Democratic base.

The trailer attempts to come across as urgent, but restrained. Think of it as a Hollywood-produced teaser for a Ken Burns docudrama on the Great Recession. But here’s our question: What does it say about the way the Obama team appears to be approaching the coming campaign? Here’s our take:

They're selling the long view

The first words out of Hank’s mouth in the trailer deal with how to judge the Obama presidency: “Do we look at the day’s headlines or do we remember what we as a country have been through?”

The Obama team is pushing the latter approach there. They want voters to look beyond unemployment numbers that will remain high through November and remember how bad the economy was when Obama took office.

Thus top adviser David Axelrod, recalling a pre-inauguration meeting of the president-elect’s economic team, says “what was described in that meeting was an economic crisis beyond what anybody had imagined.”

We remember that at that point it was pretty obvious the economy was so far down the toilet it had reached the septic tank. But as Greg Sargent writes on his liberal Plum Line blog at the Washington Post, the Obama campaign is trying to convince Americans about how difficult and dangerous it was just to get the economy back to where it is today.

“If Americans cast their vote as a referendum on the conditions of the economy on Election Day 2012 – on ‘the day’s headlines’ – Obama could be denied a second term,” writes Sargent.

They still think Romney's the opponent

Most of the trailer focuses on economic issues. That’s Mitt Romney’s big issue, of course – that’s better equipped to bring back American jobs. The Obama campaign is choosing to address that fight, rather than the social issues they might raise if Rick Santorum was the more likely Republican opponent.

Plus, Obama’s biggest legislative achievement, his health-care reforms, gets mentioned only once, briefly. That’s either because Obama officials believe health care won’t be an issue in a campaign against Romney, who passed a similar effort when governor of Massachusetts; or they’re so worried about its political effects that they’re trying to ignore it.

Their slogan is 'GM's alive and bin Laden's dead'

That’s been a joke in DC political circles for months, and it appears it’s coming true.

The auto bailout gets big play in the trailer. It has former administration consumer official Elizabeth Warren saying, “If the auto industry goes down, what happens to America’s manufacturing base, what happens to jobs in America, what happens to the whole Midwest?”

Then, suddenly, it is years later, and VP Joe Biden is talking about the bin Laden raid. “We had to make a decision, go or not go,” says Biden, over a shot of Obama framed alone against a White House window.

Got an opinion on the trailer? Tell us what you think in comments. The full movie comes out on March 15.

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