In truly unshocking news, Barack Obama e-mailed supporters Monday to let them know he was running for president again. "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."
Don't get him wrong. There will be expensive TV ads and extravaganzas. Oh, yes. After all, what would an Obama campaign be without its outsized, world-historic, bread and circus spectacles?
In fact, that's the real point of Obama's early announcement: He needs to start raising hundreds of millions of dollars now if he's going to have those extravaganzas later. (Personally, I hope he makes another campaign stop in Berlin.) And, thanks to FEC rules, he can't start the serious fundraising until he makes it official.
If it weren't for that, Obama would be delighted to stay on the sidelines, because his whole re-election strategy requires going on semi-hiatus from the presidency. That's why he's been AWOL on the budget battles. It's why he's completely ignored his own deficit commission, and it's why he's been saying as little as possible on foreign policy. It's also why, last week, he accepted an award for government "transparency" in secret.
The White House has learned the hard way that it overexposed its biggest asset during Obama's first two years in office, using him for countless supposedly "game-changing" speeches that changed little or nothing. He gave the most press interviews in presidential history, according to Mark Knoller of CBS. In 2009, he had 411 public speeches, comments and remarks, and 491 in 2010. But in 2011, we have what Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus calls a "Where's Waldo presidency" where "you frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape."
You can even play "Where's Obama?" in the re-election announcement video. He never makes a personal appearance; you never even hear his voice. Though if you watch closely, you can see some nostalgic photos from 2008. The wan video specifies no significant record or accomplishments. This was no updated version of Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" ad, which for all its gauzy nostalgia actually had substance, touting record employment, home buying and much lower interest rates.