Monday 23 October 2017

Obama's 2012 campaign kicks off . . . first stop Moneygall

But, asks Caitriona Palmer in Washington, can he find that magic touch again?

On the road again:
O'Bama will hope
that his trip to the
Emerald Isle will
endear him to
back home
On the road again: O'Bama will hope that his trip to the Emerald Isle will endear him to Irish-Americans back home

It is expected to be the most expensive -- and explosive -- political campaign in American history. But this week it kicked off with barely a whimper. Confirming what has been the worst-kept secret in Washington for months, Barack Obama announced on Monday that he intends to seek re-election for president in 2012 in a "final campaign" that is expected to raise over a billion dollars.

First stop on the president's new campaign tour will be his forthcoming trip to Ireland in May when the president is expected to woo Irish-American voters by highlighting his family's Emerald Isle ancestry.

In the early hours of Monday, while most of America slept, the president announced his intentions to seek a second term in a pre-dawn email sent to supporters across the country.

In a slick video that accompanied the message, a procession of voters from swing states -- black, Latino, young and old -- spoke about the need to re-elect Obama so that he could finish the job he started.

It was a far cry from February 2007 in Springfield, Illinois, when the young senator stood in front of hundreds of people chanting, "Obama, Obama!" and announced that he was bidding to become the first ever African-American president of the United States.

Obama's muted kick-start to his 2012 campaign begs the question whether the man of Hope and Change can whip up the same kind of Messianic fervour that his historic quest for the presidency inspired in 2008.

Burdened by the realities of office and tarnished by having become a Washington insider, the president will find it harder to inspire such enthusiasm this time around, experts say.

"Obama's exciting outsider status is a thing of the past. Voters will no longer see him as a symbol of the promises of the future, but instead as yet another member of the establishment," Professor Larry J Sabato from the University of Virginia told the Weekend Review.

"Does that mean he will be unable to galvanise his supporters? No. But it does mean the enthusiasm won't come as easily this second time around."

Already the announcement that Obama will seek re-election -- combined with the decidedly paltry pickings of Republican opponents -- has been greeted with a collective yawn by some pundits and commentators.

"I'm already bored . . . Wake me up when it's over," wrote political commentator Peter Beinart in the Daily Beast. "Democrats take it for granted that we have a president who is black and not named George W Bush. Those things don't feel exhilarating any more.

"Once upon a time, liberals could imagine that there was no limit to what a President Obama might achieve. Now that limit is set by (Speaker of the House) John Boehner.

Aware of the difficulties facing him in wooing back independent voters, Obama's video -- which relies on 'ordinary' Americans -- hit all the right, if slightly boring, notes. Apple pie imagery abounds -- with shots of a farm, a church, an American flag.

"I don't like everything's he's done," says a 50-something named Ed, "but I respect him, and I trust him."

But within hours of the video's release, Obama and his campaign were being mocked on the late-night television circuit. The Obama supporters looked "exhausted" said comedian Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

"Those are the best supporters you can come up with for your opening campaign video?" Stewart said on his Monday night show to howls of laughter.

"How did we go from 'Yes we can' to 'You know, whatever'?," he asked.

In fact, the Republicans -- who released a spoof version of Obama's video complete with photos of the president golfing, hanging out with Paul McCartney and a cartoon image of him riding a unicorn over a rainbow -- had more success with their video than the president.

By mid week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee's parody had been viewed over a million times. By comparison, Obama's had been only viewed 310,700 times.

While the 2012 election is still over 19 months away, Obama's announcement underscores the magnitude of the task ahead. Pundits are predicting that the election will be "very close" but that Obama will be the victor.

Although history is on his side -- since 1932 only three incumbents have been defeated in their re-election bid -- the administration knows it can take nothing for granted.

Things are looking a lot brighter now for Obama than they were five months ago when, reeling from a devastating "shellacking" in the mid-term elections, the president seemed overwhelmed, distracted and out-of-touch.

While Obama has struggled to balance the soaring rhetoric of his 2008 campaign with the harsh realities of governance, there have been significant victories. He has made good on his promises to enact healthcare reform, to put limits on the banks and to turn around a sluggish economy which is finally now seeing steady growth.

But with skyrocketing fuel and food costs combined with the tenuous situation in the Middle East, the economy may be Obama's greatest barrier to re-election. And he will need to defend his own fiscal policies that have seen the national debt rise to $14 trillion.

'Obama's biggest threat is the economy," said Sabato. "If the gradual lowering of the unemployment rate is reversed or if gas prices continue to rise, voters could be in a surly mood."

Although he will campaign this time with the advantages of the presidency -- the larger-than-life "bully pulpit" and ease of fundraising -- Obama will still need to woo sceptical supporters.

His forthcoming trip to Ireland will be an important part of his campaign and the White House hopes that footage of Obama speaking to the Irish masses will warm voters' hearts.

Recent reports suggest that Obama is coming to Ireland as a 'payback' to US ambassador Dan Rooney, an influential supporter from the swing state of Pennsylvania who lent valuable money and votes in 2008.

"Obviously, it can't hurt Obama among Irish-Americans that he's taking this trip," said Sabato.

"Every St Patrick's Day his name is spelled O'Bama, and he lets the green dye fill the White House fountains. Obama hopes to do as well or better than he did in 2008 with white Americans. The Irish would be a target group."

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