CHICAGO-The people in the crowd still shouted they loved him, and he declared his love back. He told them it was “their campaign” not his. The ballroom at the Navy Pier was jammed with people under 30 for a star-studded late night event that included NBA star Derrick Rose.
But beyond those similarities, much has changed as Barack Obama starts his second campaign for the presidency. In a series of fundraisers in Chicago to kick off his 2012 run, Obama repeatedly joked that “your candidate is a little older and a lot grayer.”
The biggest shift, though, is in the message. In 2008, Obama was all about “change.” Now, the key word is “progress.” The inspirational rhetoric of three years ago has been replaced by two long lists.
The first includes health-care reform, a stimulus bill, appointing two women to the Supreme Court and a bunch of other moves that, the president argues, have improved the country.
“Because of you, we’ve been able to make real progress over the last few years. Because of you, we were able to prevent another Great Depression. Because of you, we’re making the most meaningful education reforms in a generation through a competition called Race to the Top, raising teachers up and raising learning standards in schools and states across America,” he told a cheering crowd near Chicago’s waterfront. “Because of you, we overcame the status quo and reformed Wall Street.”
The second list is what he hasn’t done yet: major legislation on immigration or energy, enacting his "Win the Future" initiatives, further reducing unemployment.
“With your help we will attract new jobs and new businesses to our shores,” Obama said. “We will make sure America isn’t just competing, but we’re competing to win in this economy. With your help we’re going to make sure all our kids are ready for college, all our kids are ready for careers.”
Obama did not avoid the idealism of his previous run. He repeated the phrases “change you can believe in” and "yes we can” from 2008. He spoke of the importance of “a big vision for America, of a compassionate America and a caring America and an ambitious America, not a small America.”
But the man who ran for president in 2008 with a limited record of proposing bills in the Senate now drifts into Washingtonese, as he bragged to the crowd “We signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter bill.” (He did then explain that the legislation is aimed at reducing the pay gap between men and women)
“So here is the point, Chicago,” Obama said, summing the case he was pleading. “We have faced an extraordinary array of challenges at home and around the world. But we wouldn’t have made any of this progress if it hadn’t been for you.”
The president returns to Washington and will meet with state legislators from around the country.