Obama Campaign Shifts Focus to Proving Its 2008 Promises Fulfilled
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
With the 2012 presidential election drawing closer, and incumbent Barack Obama fighting to maintain his position in the White House, political analysts have, in an attempt to gauge Obama’s chances, begun to compare his successful 2008 campaign with the current one.
The opposing Mitt Romney campaign has made much of Obama’s slogan change. In 2008, the campaign called itself “Hope,” an illustration of the youthful energy Obama summoned. Following eight years of an increasingly unpopular George W. Bush, the campaign emphasized the optimism Obama hoped to represent.
“If you will work with me, like you’ve never worked before, then we will win,” he told a Portsmouth, N.H. audience in January 2008. “And we will win America. And then we will change the world.”
This sense of youthful exhilaration helped Obama garner the youth vote to an extent few other politicians have.
According to Scott Keeter and Juliana Horowitz of the Pew Research Center, “66 percent of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama, making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.”
In recent months, however, Obama’s supporters as well as his detractors have noticed a change. His new motto, “Forward,” reflects in one sense a continuation of his original goals, but in another, the maturing of a president.
As a whole, Obama’s stated message has not differed radically from that which he voiced in 2008. The economy remains a major issue. Four years ago, he proposed and promoted his bailout plan and today he defends it. The middle class remains a focal point.
In a striking similarity to the campaign of 2008, Obama has emphasized his adversary’s indifference to the middle class.
Following the Detroit debate in September of 2008, Obama noted, “We talked about the economy for 40 minutes, and not once did Sen. McCain talk about the struggles that middle class families are facing every day.”
In a 2012 commercial sponsored by the Obama campaign, he reiterates that sentiment. “The middle class is carrying a heavy load in America. But Mitt Romney doesn’t see it.”
The very nature of foreign policy renders a unified message from one campaign to the next impossible. But Obama has, on the whole, presented his policy as a continuation rather than a change. Just as he vowed during the 2008 campaign to end the war in Iraq, he stresses today his intention to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
His social policy remains almost identical. Although Obama made headlines with his announcement last May that “[F]or me, personally, it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” for many the pronouncement only formalized the inevitable after his less-controversial promotion of civil unions in 2008 and his assertion that “same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law.”
During both campaigns, he has taken a decidedly pro-life stance, asserting in the Democratic debate of April 2007, “I think that most Americans recognize that [abortion] is a profoundly difficult issue for the women and families who make these decisions. They don’t make them casually. And I trust women to make these decisions, in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy, and I think that’s where most Americans are,” and on his 2012 campaign website, “a woman’s health care choices are personal decisions, best made with her doctor—without interference from politicians”.
The most conspicuous difference between the campaigns of 2008 and 2012, therefore, is the difference of tone.
The Senator Obama of 2008 portrayed himself as a young and charismatic newcomer, driven to inspire radical change in Washington. He opposed not a president but a fellow congressman, and the race amounted to a battle of proposals and promises.
Today, it is Obama on the campaign. Maturation was inevitable, if his noticeably older appearance is any indication, but the more somber tone of his campaign fits the new necessities he now faces.
As president of the United States, he must not only propose new ideas, but demonstrate how the plans he made four years ago succeeded, or justify those that failed.
Instead of critiquing the errors of President Bush in the Middle East, he must now answer to his own foreign policy decisions, such as the elimination of Osama bin Laden and the terrorist attack in Benghazi. This time, he must run not as a newcomer ready to shake things up in Washington, but a president, with four years of experience behind him.
“I don’t want your vote just because of what I have done. I want your vote because of what I’m going to do,” said Obama in a speech on Friday in Cleveland. “And I need you to keep believing in me.”