Washington: US President Barack Obama launched his 2012 re-election campaign on Monday, framing his final stint as a candidate as an effort to cement and expand the policies he has enacted from the White House.
Obama, a Democrat who won a sweeping victory over Republican Senator John McCain in 2008 with a message of change, said in a low-key email to supporters that he was filing papers to start his re-election bid in a formal way.
“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,” he said in the email.
“We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily. ... But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we’ve made—and make more—we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.”
As president, Obama secured an overhaul of the US healthcare system and financial regulation.
He has already started fundraising for Democrats in recent weeks. Filing papers with the Federal Election Commission will allow Obama to fill his own campaign coffers directly as well.
Political observers expect the Obama campaign to raise an unprecedented $1 billion for the race.
Obama raised a record $750 million to win the 2008 election while running as a senator from Illinois.
A handful of potential Republican challengers including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty are laying the groundwork for their own campaigns but none of them has formally announced a candidacy.
Early polls show Obama leading potential Republican rivals.
Obama’s announcement could generate criticism that he is switching attention too early to his re-election hopes. The low-key nature of his announcement seemed designed to rebuff that criticism.
The president is in the middle of a budget battle with congressional Republicans and has focused his message in recent weeks on reducing US dependence on foreign oil and investing in innovation and education—themes he likely will highlight in his bid to hold on to the White House next year.
Obama also has defended US military intervention in Libya.
Republicans say Obama’s policies to boost the economy and expand healthcare coverage are too expensive. They are pressing Democrats to make deep spending cuts to shrink the US deficit, another issue that could play a crucial role in the campaign.
Obama’s email, which closed with a button labeled “donate” that linked to his campaign website, said his 2012 bid would have to be more innovative than his successful 2008 organization.
“In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we’ll build together in cities and towns across the country,” he said in the note.
“And I’ll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that’s farther reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we’ve built before.”
A two-minute, 10-second video on the site, titled “It Begins With Us,” features supporters from around the country discussing the Democratic president and the state of the nation. But Obama is not shown or heard.