From Sunlen Miller:
This was not a conference call you’d have heard in the 2008 presidential campaign.
There was talk of hope. But this time the talk of hope was that of President Obama’s hoping that his supporters from 2008 will still support him organize in 2012, after admittedly a rough few years.
President Obama opened up the call with grassroots supporters across the country this evening, after officially launching his reelection bid earlier in the day, by saying, “I’m fired up, I don’t know about everyone else.”
The president admitted that “we may not have the exact same newness in 2008,” because there was something “so dramatic” about that process. He noted that the last two years have also taken a toll on him.
“I’m gray, and I’ve got bags under my eyes. You know, I’ve got a few dings and cuts from some of the fights we’ve had in Washington,” he said.
But the “core spirit” of 2008, he said, is still there.
“And I hope that you know even though we’re a little older and a little wiser now than we were in 2007, 2008," he said. "I hope everyone is ready to run that race one more time.”
Campaign manager Jim Messina downplayed the expectations directly.
“We face challenges in our uphill battle; I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Messina said. “While the president was in a much better position than he was prior to the midterms, there’s no doubt that we face a different climate than we did in 2008. We have our work cut out for us.”
The president took a few questions from supporters who will be put to work mobilizing across the country. The first question was from an organizer who wondered how they should defend him against disillusioned voters, who felt that he could have done more for the country.
“I think the first thing is to provide people with what we have accomplished,” Obama said referring to health care reform, financial regulatory reform, the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and getting the country out of the threat of a depression.
The president added, though, that he also has a year and a half as president left in his first term –- so he can tackle things like immigration reform and energy independence.
“Then I think you’ve got to remind people that change takes time,” he added. "We’ve done a lot of things but we’ve got more work to do.”
Another supporter asked how without a primary they could get people mobilized. The president admitted that there an array of forces on the other side that are lined up against him.
“You’ve got a rejuvenated Republican party that is feeling good about itself," he said. "You’ve got more than half a dozen potential candidates on the other side. So they will be getting a lot of the attention and a lot of the focus on their side around their primary season and frankly they’re going to be talking about undoing all the things that we’ve done for the past two years.”
The president said that they need to “go back to the basics” of the campaign –- going black by block, community by community, and talking to neighbors like the 2008 campaign.
“That has to start now, but that doesn’t have to be done in a flashy way,” Obama said.
The president was clear that the campaign, although formally launched, with the filing of his papers to the FEC this morning, it will not yet start formally for him, as he will be “tied up pretty good” being president for the next several months.
“For you the campaign starts now. It’s not going to start for me now, because it turns out that my inbox is pretty full down here in Washington," he said. "And we’re going to have to manage the incredible things that are taking place in the Middle East, we’re going to have to manage our budget process that’s fair and keeps the economy growing, continues to grow jobs."
The president called on his supporters to put in the time and effort now for him.
“I want you to all say ‘I’m in, send me in coach,’” he said, asking for time, money, energy, effort and ideas. "A lot of time politicians market themselves like soap. And you know we just have these ads on TV and sort of cookie-cutter by the polls. And what made our campaign different was that we took some risks and we did things differently.”
“I hope you guys are up to it,” Obama concluded the call, “because I know I am.”
– Sunlen Miller