President Obama officially began his reelection campaign with speeches before 14,000 in Ohio and 8,000 in Virginia. With a slightly new color scheme, a new play-off song (The Boss singing "We Take Care of Our Own") and a new slogan, he wrapped the speech with the assurance that the campaign this time is also about hope and change--the change that he started, but needs to be completed.
He warned the crowds of the millions that would be spent on negative ads, and his opponent asking the question of whether you are better off now than before the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression (kind of a trick question.) He said the question should be, will we be better off in the future? His speech made the case that his policies, his achievements and his proposals for a second term would move the country towards a better future for all, not just the super-rich.
Here's that part of the text:
"Over and over again, they will tell you that America is down and out, and they'll tell you who to blame, and ask if you're better off than you were before the worst crisis in our lifetime," Obama said. "The real question - the question that will actually make a difference in your life and in the lives of your children - is not just about how we're doing today. It's about how we'll be doing tomorrow."
He said that the Romney campaign is about turning back to the failed policies of the past (sometimes, as in the case of affordable contraceptives and equal opportunity for women, to the distant past), in the belief that in their dissatisfaction Americans won't remember the consequences of those policies from the Bush years. But he asserted "We were there, we remember, and we're not going back." In one of his strongest lines, President Obama linked this with the bloody battles he fought in his presidency to make progress, as well as the legacy of such struggles in the past that he called upon in 2008: "We've gone through too much to turn back now."
The crowd in Ohio was larger because the venue held more people. The Virginia crowd seemed livelier, responding more quickly and more loudly. Among the lines that got the most applause in both places--but especially in Ohio--was about the clean energy future not only for an economic future but "for the safety of our planet."
Then there's the Obama campaign, and for all the noise about it, the early indications are that it's just as smart and dedicated, and even stronger. TPM drew a number of contrasts between Obama and Romney campaign events (including Romney's crowds being in the hundreds, and the Obama crowds being way more diverse), and here's a striking one:
Supporters at Obama’s rally in Virginia were given homework – the campaign and the speakers on stage (including Obama) urged them to sign up with the campaign and register voters. First Lady Michelle Obama even reminded the college kids in the audience to change their registrations if they’re moving over the summer. Everywhere you turned, supporters were being asked to hand the Obama campaign a phone number, address or social media account handle.
This is not the scene at a Romney rally, generally. While campaign staff often sign up supporters with clipboards, voter registration booths and social media stations (both fixtures of Obama’s Virginia rally) are nowhere to be found. And Ann and Mitt Romney rarely, if ever, talk about voter registration."
I keep thinking of that Times story about organized and funded Obama campaign efforts to register voters even in states that have made this more difficult. Even the League of Women Voters is too intimidated to register in Florida. But not the Obama campaign. That says a lot.
I've also been thinking that I want to enjoy this. There is something to the "happy warrior" idea. Hubert Humphrey got that nickname when he fought for civil rights and progressive causes, win or lose, he kept fighting. With President Obama, there's not so much frustration with the message or the way it is articulated as I've sometimes felt in past campaigns. I know who's side I'm on, and I'm all for taking in all the emotion of fighting the good fight. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last presidential campaign I'll follow closely. So I'm going to embrace this one for every moment I can.