Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obama can’t wait to start campaigning

Perhaps it is only appropriate that we didn’t even make it to Election Day before someone officially declared their candidacy for the NEXT election cycle.
The "O" is back

Barack Obama filed the papers that officially make him a candidate for president in the 2012 elections on the day before we vote to decide who will be in the City Council or, for the two-thirds who live in a Chicago suburb, who will have control of the municipal checkbooks all across the metropolitan area.

CONSIDERING THAT THIS election cycle began about a month-and-a-half before the 2010 election cycle that gave us Pat Quinn as governor and Toni Preckwinkle as county board President – along with a slew of allied officials – it seems that we just can’t wait for one election cycle to end before we begin with the next.

Insofar as Obama is concerned, it shouldn’t be a shock to anybody that he would run for re-election. The only real question is whether any Democrat would have the nerve to challenge him for the party’s nomination – or will it just be a slew of conservative ideologues who will seek to challenge him as a Republican nominee.

It was just a few weeks ago that we learned Obama was planning to run his re-election operation out of Chicago (from the Prudential Building, with an office on a floor high enough that he’ll have a great view of Grant Park AND Lake Michigan.

That move was considered radical, because sitting presidents traditionally have based their re-election operations from the District of Columbia (or from the suburbs in Virginia – if they’re of the GOP political persuasion).

BUT OBAMA WANTS to have a repeat of ’08, and hopes the “magic” of our beloved home city gives his re-election dreams a jolt. It may even let him claim to be a “D.C. outsider,” although I suspect the kind of people who most get worked up by such rhetoric really mean “rural person” and likely will view Chicago as being just as flawed as the capital city on the shores of the Anacostia River.

Which is why I think us Chicagoans (and all like-minded people across the nation) ought to assert ourselves come the next election cycle. It would go a long way toward confirming the recent polls showing that the Tea Party conservative activist movement was last year’s fad – and not some lasting trend.

Now I know some people are complaining that Obama has “let us down” by being too willing to compromise to the conservative ideologues (even though the ideologues are the ones who screech and scream that Obama is too rigid and unwilling to compromise).

They’ll be the ones who will argue that Obama hasn’t done enough to get our nation out of the military conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, and settled for a weakened health care reform measure.

BUT I, AND many others (I hope) realized back in ’08 that change is going to take some time, particularly since the Obama opposition made it clear from Day One that they were going to be rigid in their approach to fighting his desires.

Obama, in an e-mail sent out to his supporters in hopes that they might be willing to make a campaign contribution right now, admitted that his purpose in declaring his candidacy now for re-election as president is to bolster the fundraising efforts that will pay for the “expensive TV ads or extravaganzas” that likely will be part of the campaign, although he tempered such talk by also mentioning a desire for "grassroots" movements that would make it appear he is the choice of the people.

“Even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today,” he wrote.

If anything, Obama’s strategy almost is reminiscent of what now-former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich did when he ran for re-election in 2006.

IDEOLOGUES OF THE world, relax!

I’m not giving you a line implying that Obama is anything like the impeached (and likely to someday be convicted felon) governor, EXCEPT in one remote aspect.

The 2006 election cycle was one in which the speculation about Blagojevich’s political behavior being illegal had already begun. But he had a significant fundraising advantage, and he was able to use his campaign cash surplus to spin the public perception of his Republican opponents.

By the time the campaigning got under way, we were all too willing to believe that Blagojevich was running against some sort of goof (although his eventual opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, managed to resurrect herself as Illinois comptroller in last year’s election cycle).

OBAMA WILL HAVE a head start in that department, since there are various polls indicating that none of the Republican partisans who talk of running against the sitting president has that good of a public perception outside of the ideologue circle.

If Obama is able to get a jolt of cash to start the campaign activity now, he could ensure that none of them ever gains ground.

When combined with the various trends indicating that many people are seeing legislative activity in places like Wisconsin and Indiana (remember when their legislators were fleeing to Illinois?) as blatantly partisan and improper, it could be the year that any so-called gains by Republicans last year get un-done.

One other aspect of Obama’s Monday e-mail message caught my attention. He pledged that a 2012 re-election bid will be, “my final campaign, at least as a candidate.”

IT MAKES SENSE. What else could he run for without it appearing to be a total let-down?
CLINTON: Obama's future rival?

But the reality is that he’s not even 50 yet. If he does get re-elected, he would only be 55 at the time he leaves the White House – an age at which many conventional politicians start thinking seriously about running for their first presidential term.

Which means that we have the potential for an “elder statesman” Barack Obama for many years to come. I wonder if it means the future holds in store for us a repeat of the Obama versus Clinton fight of ’08.

Only instead of it being Barack versus Hillary, it will be Barack versus Bill – with both trying to see who can outdo the other in the post-presidential legacy department. This kind of speculation is what occurs when we start thinking about future election cycles, before the current is one complete.


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