(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Barack Obama begins his bid for a second term with an appeal to his past supporters but a Christian think tank questions whether he can rekindle the grassroots movement that propelled his 2008 campaign.
Obama sent text messages to supporters Monday announcing his campaign was filing the paperwork to begin his 2012 bid for re-election. This move makes Obama the first of the known Republican and Democratic contenders to officially declare his intentions to go after the presidency. Over the weekend, the Obama campaign alerted supporters by sending out emails and a YouTube broadcast reminding volunteers “it begins with you.”
“My guess is the Obama folks didn’t want to wait too long,” Eric Sapp, a founding member of the political constant Eleison Group, said of the timing. “They wanted to get up and start early and get people mobilized.”
Sapp noted that the president was not featured in the video and explained that he is likely trying to re-energize supporters to organize and begin on their own the hard work of exciting voters for the 2012 elections. The video features supporters and their family expressing their trust in Obama’s ability as president. Sapp says the president’s campaign is definitely trying to regain the energy of the 2008 grassroots support he gained.
"[In] 2008, it was this explosion of grassroots support and his (Obama's) popularity was through the roof. Everyone [was] giving up weekends to stand on street corners,” Sapp described. “They want to recapture that.”
Gary Bauer, president of the conservative non-profit group American Values, believes Obama is going to have a hard time trying to regain voters who gave him an overwhelming win two years ago.
“I think they know they have a problem with their base,” he said. “His base doesn’t like that they’re in several wars.”
Moreover, the left also does not like that he compromised with Republicans on tax breaks for the wealthy and that the Cuban detention facility Guantanamo Bay is still open, he added. Obama promised to close the facility during his 2008 campaign. He reversed course in March, ordering a resumption of military trials for terror suspects there.
The Saturday video presupposed that Obama’s base may have some differences with his policies. Supporter Ed of North Carolina said in in the video, “I don’t agree with Obama on everything but I respect him, and I trust him.”
Sapp, whose Democratic consulting firm specializes in connecting clients with people of faith, noted that the president is confronting the realities of the day.
“He’s not as popular as what he once was,” he observed, noting that the slow economy and a divided Congress may have changed opinions. Commenting on the video, he stated, “I think it’s a recognition that after two years in office that [voters are] not going to agree on everything, but they can still trust him.”
Compared to the GOP’s field of candidates, Sapp said that Obama still has the advantage.
“No one is standing out or looking adept or especially threatening on the other side right now,” he remarked. Gallup polls measuring the favorability of likely Republican contenders among GOP voters have revealed a difference as large as three points between the top three contenders.
Bauer, a Christian who served in President Ronald Reagan's administration for eight years, also admitted that the GOP nomination battle is wide open, but said it’s Obama who has the problem. He cited a Quinnipiac University poll of voters saying, “Fifty percent said they would definitely vote against reelecting the president and 41 percent said they would vote to reelect the president.”
Obama has an even lower approval rating among evangelicals.
“An evangelical that would vote for Obama after the last two and half years would have to have been asleep,” he said, noting Obama’s support of gay marriage and abortion. When he considers the numbers and the president’s liberal stance on both marriage and abortion, Bauer concluded, “Any [GOP] candidate is going to have a decent chance.”
Sapp agreed that Obama is going to have a tough time with evangelicals. Obama needs to be more intentional about stating his faith as a Christian while at the same time explaining the motivation behind his policy making, he advised. The evangelical vote, he stressed, cannot be taken for granted.
“You’re not going to get everybody,” the Durham, N.C., native stated plainly, advising the Obama campaign to acknowledge that point and "get over that.”
Still, Obama “will have more enthusiasm than the Republicans had in 2010,” Bauer predicts, “but not as much as in 2008."