The man who made “change we can believe in” and “yes, we can” hallmarks of the 2008 presidential race is still searching for a catchy phrase to define his next campaign.
“We’re still working on it,” President Obama told ABC News’ Barbara Walters when asked about his slogan in an exclusive pre-Christmas interview.
“I think that’s a great question,” Obama said, grinning. “If those middle-schoolers have any suggestions, let me know.” (Walters’ question had been written by a young American student and Obama admirer.)
While no official selection has been made 313 days before the election, Obama’s campaign team has been testing a mix of pithy phrases meant to reflect the president’s accomplishments and vision for the future – all while deflecting attention from the lagging economy and some of the promises from 2008 that didn’t quite get fulfilled.
In a slew of recent speeches, Obama has tried to frame his actions in office as a path for America to “win the future.” He’s trumpeted his political philosophy as the one that ensures all Americans are “getting a fair shot.” He’s exhorted supporters and opponents alike to be “greater together,” and reminded his audiences of “what change is.”
Earlier this year, Obama coined a preliminary campaign slogan — “We Can’t Wait” – to reflect his agenda in office and on the campaign trail.
The battle cry has been meant to portray Obama as a decisive and active executive in the face of a recalcitrant Republican Party. It also appears on campaign T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons for sale on the Obama for America campaign website.
Still, most of the 116 items listed in the Obama-Biden store, from martini glasses to can coozies, cufflinks and coolers, are adorned only with “Obama 2012″ – one sign the Obama catch-phrase for 2012 is still a work in progress.
“‘There’s a bit of casting about, throwing ideas at the wall,’” an unnamed Obama adviser told Politico’s Evan Thomas and Mike Allen in their book “Playbook 2012: The Right Fights Back,” which was released last month. “‘Win the Future followed by We Can’t Wait followed by – who knows what comes next?’”
The string of slogans has even become fodder for GOP attacks. The Republican National Committee unveiled a New Year’s resolution-themed e-card that pokes fun at the rhetorical potpourri: ”New Slogan: ‘Yes We Can Hope for Change We Can Believe in Because We Can’t Wait to Win the Future!’” it reads.
Obama campaign aides have confidently shrugged off the scrutiny of their slogan – or lack thereof – noting that in 2008 they rotated several phrases, each meant to capitalize on the spirit of the political moment.
“I have a bumper sticker on my car that says Obama 2008. I wouldn’t read too much into bumper stickers,” chief Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said in an interview on MSNBC earlier this month.