By filing his candidacy papers Monday with the Federal Election Commission, the president will be able to start raising campaign money immediately. He has already tapped a campaign manager, former White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, who is setting up the headquarters of Obama’s 2012 operation in Chicago.
But some Republicans are criticizing the president for starting his 2012 campaign while a potential government shutdown looms, unemployment remains near 9 percent and U.S. forces are helping to enforce a no-fly zone and arms embargo in Libya.
The actual declaration was a formality, as Obama was widely expected to seek a second term. But in the message to supporters, the president argues that he needed to start his campaign as quickly as possible. He does not speak in the two-minute video, which shows supporters across the country talking about the importance of gearing up for the campaign.
“We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build,” Obama wrote in the e-mail message. “So even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.”
Obama’s move comes at a complicated time in his presidency. Statistics released last week show that unemployment has dropped a full percentage point, to 8.8 percent, since the November midterm elections, leading the administration to tout progress on an issue that has dogged the president.
But Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over federal spending, and Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya has not gained majority support from the public.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 51 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance, while 45 percent disapprove, making him a favorite but far from guaranteed to win reelection, according to strategists in both parties.
The Republican National Committee released a minute-long video Monday in response to Obama’s announcement. It opens with images of the president playing golf, filling out his NCAA bracket and appearing on the television talk show “The View.” Then, it flashes the numbers: 8.8 percent unemployment, nearly 3 million jobs lost.
“You’ve been enjoying yourself. But now it’s time to make them love you again. You’re cool. Calm. Collected. You’ve always gotten what you wanted. But was it ever what we wanted? We need jobs. We need leadership,” the narrator of the ad says.