President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign got underway officially today, filing papers for his candidacy and launching its first commercial. Titled It Begins With Us, the ad features a series of vehemently everyday Americans talking earnestly about how, as much as why, they're going to re-elect the president--and not coincidentally, very little of the man himself. The campaign has backed way off the "change" theme of 2008 (naturally) and has moved to the everyman approach, reinforcing that Obama has got our backs.
An e-mail signed by Obama announcing the re-election campaign explains: "[T]he 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 the ad seeks to reinforce that.
"Ed," an older white guy from North Carolina, starts off the commercial with the observation that "it seems like the last couple of elections we've had have been kind of 'turning point' campaigns," perhaps suggesting this isn't one, and that instead we should hold the course. We meet "Gladys," of Nevada, who's a bit nervous about the election, and Katherine, of Colorado, who reminds us that Obama was an "underdog senator" when he started campaigning last time. There's "Mike," sitting in what appears to be a dorm room in New York, who liked Obama's "energy and hope" during the last campaign, even though he wasn't old enough to vote at the time. Then "Alice," in Michigan, reminds us that Obama does have a full-time job to do in addition to campaigning for re-election.
Gladys sets out some broadly stated goals (education, housing, jobs) and Ed points out the importance of a good personality ("I don't agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him). Katherine explains how she's become less cynical under Obama ("Politics is how we govern ourselves. That's what politics is").
The ad takes a straightforward populist angle, though it's a little strange that the people it features aren't given last names, ages or occupations. That's obviously on purpose, because they're supposed to be you and me, but we can still infer a lot: Ed, sitting on his porch, is probably retired. Gladys, speaking from her kitchen and also hanging in her driveway with people who are probably her family, is a mom. Katherine is... somebody who has a house? Also probably a mom because there's a refrigerator with colorful magnets behind her. Alice, wearing a stylish turtleneck and scarf with glasses, is probably some kind of professional. Mix in a few shots of hard-working volunteers and some good old American neighborhood scenery, and you've got an earnest, non-controversial, populist, and bland commercial.
Honest reaction to the ad has been limited (it's only been up for a few hours) but the National Republican Senatorial Committee already put in its two cents on Friday, launching an April Fool's Day ad that featured the president riding a unicorn over the mock slogan "America needs more changing."