Not that it’s a big surprise or anything, but now it’s official — Barack Obama today is launching his 2012 reelection campaign. I watched this video and was struck by a few things — its slick production, of course; its images of people from key groups (white male, Latino, white female, young people) and key states (North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado) that Obama is going to need in large numbers in 2012; its focus on grassroots volunteering for Obama in 2012, but perhaps in a more sober way than the frenzy of 2008; its emphasis on the importance of winning this reelection and how much more there is left to do; its subtle acknowledgment that the intense excitement and historic nature of the 2008 campaign won’t be replicated in 2012; also, its subtle acknowledgment that Barack Obama now has a record as an incumbent, so of course we’re not going to agree with everything; its catch phrase, “It begins with us,” which is a different – and again, more sober, less “movement” feel – way of saying “yes we can.”
Clearly, President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign can’t – and won’t try to – recreate 2008, which was an obvious “change” election from 8 years of George W. Bush and Republican (mis)rule. However, to the extent the Obama campaign can do so, it will need to bring the coalition that came together in 2008 together once again in numbers close to those seen in 2008. Can the Obama campaign compensate for the passion and historic excitement of 2008 with discipline, organization, a record of accomplishment, a recovering economy (instead of a collapsing one in 2008), upwards of $1 billion, and possibly a very weak Republican candidate? That’s the challenge of 2012: whether “Yes we can!” can be translated into the more sedate “It begins with us.” We’re going to find out, starting now.