IN 2008 he was universally regarded as the man from nowhere dependent almost entirely on the kindness of strangers for his assault on the most coveted job in world politics.
But this time out President Barack Obama is no longer an outsider candidate riding a wave of tiny donations all the way to Capitol Hill. Back then he relied on new and young voters inspired by his message of hope and change.
So how will it be for 2012? The answer has to be very different. As a sitting president, Mr Obama has far greater authority and media clout. Far from relying on $1 internet donations, his re-election campaign is expected to raise $1bn (€703m), an amount which is unprecedented in US politics.
"In 2008 he was very much an insurgent candidate, somebody from out of nowhere with a wholly different story. And the Obama campaign was as much a crusade as it was a traditional campaign for president," says Christopher Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University.
With early polls showing Obama leading potential Republican rivals, he announced this week he will run for re-election. That would allow him to start fund-raising and much of his war chest is expected to come from the kind of big-money donations he has criticised in the past.
This time, the former Illinois senator is no longer the fresh political face seeking to become the first black US president. His 2012 campaign will be a bigger, slicker machine likely to dwarf that of his eventual Republican opponent.
Aides note the huge number of individual donors who gave to Obama's campaign -- a record four million. But only 25pc of the money came from small donors who gave $200 or less, according to the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington.
Obama will inevitably lose many of the individual donors who backed him four years ago, says Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College and expert on campaign fundraising.
"That's something that we're not going to see this time around, that level of excitement about the Obama candidacy that we saw last time," he says.
Obama amassed a record $750m (€528m) as he surged to victory in 2008. His 2012 campaign total is expected to hit $1bn or more, even without a major Democratic primary opponent or the emergence of a strong Republican contender.
"It's definitely within reach, as he raised three quarters of a billion last time. As the incumbent president it's quite plausible to imagine him raising $1bn," says Campaign Finance Institute executive director Michael Malbin.
Jim Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff who will run Obama's campaign, has been telling big supporters they will need to collect $350,000 (€246,000) each.
Obama made his message clear last Tuesday at a $30,800-plate fund-raiser at a New York restaurant. "I could not do what I do... if I didn't know that I had a lot of people out there rooting for me and a lot of friends supporting me," he told donors at the dinner for the Democratic National Committee.
Although he has received a boost from the recovering economy, Obama's approval ratings could easily fall if the Libya war drags on and gas prices stay high, or if voters blame him for the huge US budget deficit.
"The reality of governing means that he cannot now be all things to all people. He has a record," says Meredith McGhee of the Campaign Legal Centre, a Washington non-profit group focused on campaign finance and ethics issues.
Obama has railed against a Supreme Court decision last year that removed restrictions on corporate and union campaign spending and Democrats say the decision opened the floodgates for special interest money in politics.
While experts expect the ruling to benefit Republicans more than Democrats, given corporate displeasure with Obama's laws to overhaul the US healthcare industry and put tighter regulations on big banks, Democrats will also cash in.
An effective Obama fund-raising effort could help the Democratic Party, which lost control of the House of Representatives to Republicans and has a smaller majority in the Senate after last November's elections.
Obama gave millions from his campaign war chest to congressional candidates in 2008. Every seat in the house will be up for grabs again in 2012, as well as one-third of the seats in the Senate, and many experts say the battle for Congress -- particularly for the Senate -- could be the real fight.
Republican donors will be even more focused on Congress if their party cannot find a presidential candidate with a real chance of defeating Obama. Karl Rove, a strategist for Republican candidates, was quoted as saying Obama should be considered the favourite.
More recently, a Republican operative reflected on his party's lack of any strong White House contender, and quipped: "Obama could win if he raises only $1."