Barack Obama campaigned for president four years ago promising “change we can believe in.”
Now, he’s running for a second term touting the ways that “change is.”
The emerging slogan for the 2012 campaign, on display during a high-profile New York City fundraiser Thursday night, thrusts Obama’s social and domestic policy achievements to the forefront of his re-election pitch.
The messaging – unabashedly transcending criticism and disillusionment over what Obama has not accomplished – raises the stakes of the election for Obama supporters, reminding them that issues such as the health care law, “don’t ask don’t tell” repeal, and federal student-loan aid could all be rolled back if they don’t win.
“Everything we did over the last three years is now at stake in this election,” Obama told a crowd at the Apollo Theater, a line he repeats regularly before donors on the campaign trail.
By touting a litany of the ways “change is,” Obama also complements his economic message on the campaign trail, which has focused less on a defense of his administration’s response to the recession and more on accentuating a philosophical contrast with Republican candidates.
Obama mentioned the word ‘change’ 26 times in his speech before 1,400 fawning supporters at the Apollo Theater in Harlem Thursday. He hailed seven policy accomplishments as “concrete examples” of promises from 2008 that have been fulfilled.
He also promised to affect additional “change” in the next five years if voters agree to give him a second term in November.
“If you want to end the cynicism and the game-playing and the point-scoring and the sound bites that pass for politics these days, then you’ve got to send a message this year, starting right now, that you refuse to back down; that you will not give up; that you intend to keep hoping and keep pushing and keep fighting just as hard as you did four years ago,” Obama said.
Obama’s Republican critics laugh at the notion that the president has affected change in Washington, noting an unemployment rate persistently above 8 percent since he took office, skyrocketing deficits and rising health care insurance premiums, despite promises to turn the trends around.
Obama himself has acknowledged falling short on changing the polarized partisan culture in Washington – a promise from the 2008 campaign – saying the challenge of restoring a spirit of bipartisanship has proved a greater challenge than one man and one term.
“That mindset doesn’t exist in Washington right now, and I do take some responsibility for making sure that that spirit which I think the country longs for, that we can somehow get that in the Congress as well,” Obama told ABC News’ Barbara Walters in December. “But that seems to be a longer than one-term project.”
As for whether “change is” will be the official slogan for 2012, a campaign official did not immediately respond to ABC News request for comment. The president told Walters that “we’re still working on it.”