TOPICS > Politics

Obama Looks to Grassroots Base, Battlegrounds With 2012 Bid

April 4, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
In a YouTube video posted Monday, President Obama announced his candidacy for the 2012 election and filed official paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. Gwen Ifill discusses the announcement with political editor David Chalian.
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GWEN IFILL: President Obama made it official today, launching his 2012 reelection campaign in a low-key video e-mailed to supporters.

WOMAN: We’re not leaving it up to chance. We’re not leaving it up to, oh, you know, the incumbent, the — type of thing. It’s an election that we have to win.

WOMAN: And, unfortunately, President Obama is one person. He cannot go — plus, he’s got a job. We’re paying him to do a job. So, we can’t say, here, could you just take some time off and come and get us all energized? So, we’d better figure it out.

MAN: I can’t not be involved. There’s just too much that is fundamentally important right now that is going on.

GWEN IFILL: The president’s campaign team also filed the official organizing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission today.

For more, we turn to NewsHour political editor David Chalian.

David, we can’t say that it’s a shock that the president announced that he was running again, but it’s how he announced.

DAVID CHALIAN: Right.

I think it’s really interesting to look at who is in that video and who is not in that video. We don’t see President Obama. He did not make an announcement in his own words, in his own voice. He sent this e-mail to supporters.

And part of that is to reenergize the grassroots that fueled his 2008 run for the presidency. But, also, look at who he highlighted in this video, battleground state residents, right? Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, those were the states represented by the supporters there — and also, of course, the people that made up — they sort of represent the coalition that was so successful for him in 2008.

GWEN IFILL: African-American woman, older white man and a Latina.

DAVID CHALIAN: Exactly. Exactly right.

And notice that the older white man from North Carolina is the one who says on the — in the video: I don’t always agree with Barack Obama. But I want to stick with him. I trust him.

Each one of these folks are also potential vulnerabilities, and so these are folks that Barack Obama and his team know they need to work to bring back in to his coalition.

GWEN IFILL: And in the full video — that was an excerpt — we also see young people represented as well.

So, how does the president stay above the fray? I assume that’s why you don’t see his face, you hear his voice in this early — at this early stage.

DAVID CHALIAN: To a large degree, it will be somewhat easy for him to stay above the fray. He does have this day job in the Oval Office.

And they want to keep him as focused on that and seen to be doing the work of the American people as possible. So, I don’t think you are going to see him mix it up with Republican candidates and what have you.

He is going to engage in the activity of fund-raising. He’s going to start that next week in Chicago. He’s then going to head out to California. This may be the first billion-dollar campaign. He was very successful with small donors last time around. He’s also tapping the big contributors this time around.

GWEN IFILL: But the point you’re making exactly — is exactly his advantage, as well as the baggage, which is to say, when he was elected in 2008, he was the fresh face from outside. He was not going to play by the old rules.

And now he is the old rule.

DAVID CHALIAN: He is the old rule, indeed.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID CHALIAN: I mean, I do think that some concerns that all incumbents have, right, how do you break out of the bubble, when you are president and you’re surrounded by the Secret Service and all this staff, and how do you get back into living rooms and engage with voters…

GWEN IFILL: Right.

DAVID CHALIAN: … that’s one problem about the baggage of incumbency.

But it does have a lot of advantages. In addition to the money, you do get to set the agenda in a way that you don’t as candidate. The flip side of that coin, as we have seen in the last couple months, is that world events sometimes dictate what you focus on more than what your game plan is about what you want to focus on.

So, I think there are pluses and minuses. But I think almost any presidential candidate who successfully ran for re-election, any president that successfully ran for re-election, would tell you they like being the incumbent, rather than not being the incumbent.

GWEN IFILL: Well, people say that the incumbent is basically running against him or her self. Who — who — but there are Republicans out there who are thinking about running against this president, if no Democrats. Who are they worried about or what are they worried about, if anything?

DAVID CHALIAN: Right.

Well, you can tell what they’re not worried about, because they say it all the time. They wish for a Tea Party candidate to be nominated by the Republicans, Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin.

David Plouffe, the last campaign manager and now a senior adviser in the White House, said a few months back, we can’t be so lucky to get Sarah Palin as the nominee.

I do think that they do look at some contenders as potential threats. Jon Huntsman, quite frankly, the former governor of Utah, the current ambassador to China for President Obama, he’s resigning his position, coming back. He’s a moderate who they are a little concerned about.

Now, nobody in the Obama team…

GWEN IFILL: They mock him…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID CHALIAN: They mock him all the time, which shows their concern as well.

Not sure that he will be able to get through the Republican nomination process. But if he did, he would be a real threat to them in some ways.

GWEN IFILL: OK.

We’re going to watch the money drop and we’re going to watch the Republicans rise. And we will see what happens next. We will be talking to you about that, David. Thank you.

DAVID CHALIAN: Great. Thank you.