Obama Birthday Party About Presidential Perpetuity

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011)

    On the sixth floor of the Prudential building in downtown Chicago a growing army of mostly young political operatives has next year's calendar already etched in their heads.

    Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida: The list goes on and on as the 2012 campaign gathers steam, full speed ahead.

    President Barack Obama may be coming to Chicago on Tuesday to celebrate his 50th birthday, but he is also here to help perpetuate his presidency. The party, after all, is a campaign fundraiser.

    That means top strategist David Axelrod has his work cut out for him.  He's again been tasked with helping lead the Obama team to victory.

    "I asked him just the other day, 'Knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again?'” recalled David Axelrod as he sat in his River North office.  "And he said, 'Absolutely.'"

    In 2008, candidate Obama had the virtual run of the country. That changes in 2012 for President Obama.

    "We spent 83 days in the state of Iowa in ’07. Obviously we don’t have the luxury of doing that,” said Axelrod.

    One luxury, though, is a campaign and fundraising apparatus that slowed but never stopped. The campaign headquarters has a throng of teams handling operations, travel, message and media.

    Across the country, small phone banks with volunteers are again pitching the president and looking for volunteers.

    On a warm summer evening, Joyce Drake and about eight other volunteers made calls from a cramped second floor office in Hyde Park.

    "I’ve only had one person who said she is in but not interested in volunteering," Drake said.

    Damon Porter said of the calls he had made, there was only one negative response.

    "She was supportive of the president but wanted more out of him," Porter recounted.

    In 2008, Obama’s victory was boosted by the support of independent voters. But the euphoria of 2008 was tempered in 2010. In the heartland of American, in Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, democratic governors were booted out and replaced by republicans.

    "What happened was independent voters who voted for us by 8 percent in 2008 shifted in 2010, voted for republicans by almost 18 percent," said Axelrod.

    And now?

    "I think there is an awful lot of buyer’s remorse out there among these independent voters, and that’s going to rebound to our benefit in 2012," he said.

    Axelrod said he understands there is great dismay by the action or inaction of politicians on both sides of the aisle is Washington.

    He and the president met in 1992. Axelrod was a rising political consultant, Obama an aspiring politician.

    There have been changes, especially since Obama took the oath of office on a cold January day in 2009.

    "Obviously his hair is a little grayer," said Axelrod. "His face is a little more lined. But more than the things that have changed, what strikes me is how consistent he is. The guy I talk to today is very much the guy I first met in 1992."