Obama Re-Election Headquarters to Windy City?

Break in tradition would move president's campaign HQ out of D.C.

Dec. 29, 2010 -- While aides say the decision is not yet set in stone, it appears likely that President Obama's re-election campaign headquarters for the 2012 presidential race will move to his hometown of Chicago.

Locating headquarters 700 miles away from the White House would break precedent with presidential re-election campaigns of the past. All modern presidents who have sought a second term have based their operations in, or at least near, the nation's capital.

But the Windy City holds special meaning for Obama, who famously opted to run his 2008 presidential campaign from there. The move was seen as an effort to cast the then-U.S. senator as a Washington outsider, distinct from the inside-the-Beltway-types whom he railed against during the campaign.

Aides who support the move seem to be banking on the idea that the symbolism of another Obama campaign run from outside Washington could reawaken the energy of his supporters, which has waned over the two years of his presidency.

The president has conceded that since he became commander in chief he has perhaps not communicated as clearly with Americans as he would like, and he has vowed to get out of Washington more in the coming year.

"Part of the job is engaging people -- listening, making sure that they feel that they're being heard, getting out of here, getting out of the White House, getting out of Washington," Obama told "60 Minutes" after the midterm elections in November. "And you know, that's not just good, by the way in terms of developing policy -- 'cause I think a lotta people have good ideas -- it's good for me. It's good for my spirits, good for my soul."

But will moving the home base of the campaign to the Midwest achieve that goal?

"Once you are president it's very difficult to run as an outsider,'' ABC News Political Director Amy Walter says. "But getting the campaign staff outside of the Beltway chatter and group-think can be quite helpful."

ABC News consultant Matthew Dowd, who worked on Preisdent George W. Bush's re-election campaign, says that anything based outside Washington, D.C., is good not only for perceptions but also for keeping the campaign staff grounded.

Rather than look at the decision to run the campaign from Chicago as a break from what other sitting presidents have done, Dowd points out that from the perspective of the winners, including Obama, coming from outside the capital is important.

"It is why the last three open races for president were won by the campaigns based in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Austin or Little Rock," Dowd says. "The gain in campaign staff being grounded in reality outsideD.C. way offsets any minor logistical issues."

Dowd argues that with technology, being in headquarted in Chicago is almost the same as being based just outside the Beltway.

"There is no real need for a re-elect to be based in Washington. D.C. The president is running the country and doesn't have time for many campaign meetings, and the ones he needs to attend can be planned in advance in D.C. or Chicago. All other issues can be handled over the phone, on a campaign trip or through e-mail."

How Does the Ultimate Insider Look Like an Outsider?

While modern presidential re-election campaigns have all had their headquarters in or near the capital, others have tried to address the challenges of not looking like a Beltway insider even when one is the ultimate Beltway insider.

When Vice President Al Gore sought the top job at the White House, he moved his headquarters to his home state of Tennesee, even though he had been living in the vice president's mansion at the Naval Observatory for nearly eight years. And when George H.W. Bush mounted his re-election campaign, he situated his headquarters just outside Washington in suburban Virginia.

"Running for re-election as president is much more logistically complex than running as a challenger," Walter says. "President Obama has many more demands on him than candidate Obama did. And while the Internet and cell phones can keep the team connected, even these tools have their limits. There's something about having a team all in one place that helps keep a campaign focused and disciplined."

The White House and the Democratic National Committee emphasize that they haven't yet made a formal decision about the 2012 re-election campaign headquarters but say they plan to address the issue in the early part of 2011. Perhaps most telling is David Axelrod, the senior White House adviser and chief strategist for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, has already said he would be resigning from his current position and moving back to his nativie Chicago, to assume a job in the re-election effort.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events