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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Presidential Re-Elects: No, You Can’t Feel the Excitement

There’s been a fair amount of commentary, some snarky, some genuinely sad, about the contrast between the atmosphere surrounding Barack Obama’s low-key re-election campaign announcement today and the exciting, historic launch of his 2008 campaign.
It is true that lack of enthusiasm for the administration among progressives could be a problem for Obama ’12, though the virulent radicalism and ill will of the contemporary GOP will help reduce that gap significantly. And it remains to be seen if the Obama political brain trust is going to be able to replicate much of the grassroots orientation–in organization and in fund-raising–of the original model.
But let’s remember that presidential re-election campaigns by their very nature are almost invariably a more sober proposition than those of challengers. Presidents seeking another term want to convey the sense that they are working hard, under enormous pressure, on the problems facing the country, and are elevated by their office to a level of discourse not typical of mere politicians. There’s a reason a number of presidents have chosen to wage “Rose Garden Campaigns” that eschew much of the hullabaloo of traditional canvasses. And obviously incumbent chief executives have no need to raise their name IDs or introduce Americans to their personal and ideological traits.
A time will come when the Obama campaign strikes a more urgent tone, and ’08 Obama voters will definitely be reminded that they aren’t going to get what they bargained for back then by switching horses and parties in 2012. Songs will be sung and celebrity endorsers will be back. But nobody should expect much in the way of excitement from Team Obama any time soon.

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