President Obama's re-election campaign only launched three months ago, but his advisers are already "making moves that suggest they’re awfully concerned about his prospects," says Josh Kraushaar at National Journal. We won't learn exact details of the first round of election-season fundraising numbers for Obama and his GOP rivals until mid-July, but even if Obama's haul is strong, the economy isn't. Here, five ways Obama and his re-election team are signaling their 2012 jitters:
1. Tooling with Obama's economic message
"The sounds emanating from Obamaland are certainly nervous," if not quite panicked, says Mona Charen at The Daily News Journal. And given the stubbornly high unemployment rate and other grim economic indicators, it's no wonder. That's why you see Obama working to "calibrate" his pitch on the economy, says Michael Scherer at TIME. He has "already offered several formulations," but hasn't yet found the right balance of trying to sell his economic record, empathizing with those hurt by the downturn, and offering a plan to make things better in the next four years, and beyond.
2. Talking up manufacturing
"The latest White House effort to wring good news out of a bad economy focuses on successes in the manufacturing sector," says National Journal's Kraushaar. He's visiting factories and plants, talking about the turnabouts at GM and Chrysler, and pushing initiatives to create clean-energy jobs. "Politically, it’s a puzzling message," since the rebound in manufacturing isn't strong enough to win over blue-collar workers, who have never been that fond of him, and don't see green jobs as much of a panacea.
3. Betting on Virginia and North Carolina
The Obama campaign is clearly worried that the Rust Belt is slipping toward the GOP column, because it's signaling that it will make a big play for the two Southern states he surprisingly won in 2008: Virginia and North Carolina, says Kraushaar. "It’s no coincidence the Democrats are holding next year’s convention in Charlotte," after all. But while "Virginia looks within Obama's grasp," North Carolina is a long shot. Either way, if Team Obama sees them as "critical cogs" in his re-election strategy, Republicans should be happy.
4. Hitting up large donors
Obama's finance team is preparing for "a potential decline in contributions from the everyday supporters who helped fuel his massive take in 2008," say Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold in the Los Angeles Times. That means soliciting larger donations from wealthy donors, as with the new DNC-Obama campaign Presidential Partners program for people pledging the maximum $75,800. (Team Obama maintains that it has more small donors than ever.) Not coincidently, Obama is working to mend fences with "ambivalent or even angry" Wall Street and Israel-focused donors, says the AP's Beth Fouhy.
5. "Evolving" faster on gay rights
Obama is spending more time and energy on "gay and lesbian supporters, who were among the president's most enthusiastic and deep-pocketed donors in 2008," says the AP's Fouhy. Many of them have been reassured by a recent flurry of gay-rights victories, but "those who view legalized marriage to be the paramount issue" are still miffed by Obama's refusal to endorse same-sex marriage. Obama "obviously thinks that marriage equality is a positive good," says Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker. But he might have already missed his moment to energize his base by embracing it publicly.