WASHINGTON -- Four years ago, Barack Obama was an upstart in the midst of becoming a phenomenon. Now, he's an established juggernaut with the power of the presidency at his back. But his re-election bid, formally announced Monday, seeks to re-create the grassroots effort -- the armies of volunteers, the flood of small donations, the spillover rallies -- that marked his first campaign.
Few things are more laden with cynicism than modern American politics, but in the video released Monday by Obama's re-election campaign, the president clearly is asking the band to get back together for one more show -- perhaps a little less starry-eyed but, ideally, as dedicated.
And, yes, the H-word is making a return engagement.
"I just saw the energy and hope he had for this country," said a student named Mike from New York. "Even though I couldn't vote at the time, I knew that someday I'd be able to help re-elect him. And that's what I plan on doing."
Though Obama's campaign again will be looking to an energized wave of young activists to help propel the operation politically, voters in the video such as Ed from North Carolina likely will be more crucial to whether it succeeds.
Ed, a white, middle-age man from a state that Obama surprisingly captured in 2008, said that although he doesn't agree with Obama "on everything, I respect him and I trust him."
Obama's "stay the course" pitch will be aimed squarely at those swing voters.
The voices in the video provide a virtual map of the coming key battlegrounds. Along with Mike and Ed, there's Gladys, a Latina suburban mother from Nevada; Katherine, an idealistic white mom from Colorado; and Alice, an African-American woman from Michigan who said, "President Obama is one person. Plus, he's got a job. We're paying him to do a job. So we can't just say, 'Hey, can you take some time off and come and get us all energized, so we'd better figure it out.' "
The West, including Latino voter-heavy states such as Nevada and Colorado, and the Midwest rust belt will be fundamental to Obama's chances, as well as duplicating the massive black turnout.
But of course, the call to grassroots arms masks a well-oiled political machine that is just beginning to crank up, one that could net the incumbent president a record $1 billion in campaign donations. And Monday's announcement, in truth, is largely procedural.
Obama will have help in the funding department. Two former White House aides are likely to form the kind of independent political group that helped Republicans rake in millions in last year's congressional elections. More are sure to follow.
Obama is expected to hold a series of early fundraisers in Chicago, San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York. Some will cost as much as $35,800 to attend.
The president's cast of campaign advisers looks remarkably similar and will be spearheaded by David Axelrod, who left his White House post to mastermind the re-election from Chicago. Former White House communications director Robert Gibbs also will be on board, provided he does not, as rumored, take a job with Facebook.