Obama's other town-hall meetings during the week of April 18, in California and Nevada, also smacked of campaigning. Nevada is another swing state. And while California is solidly Democratic, it's a gold mine for fundraisers; he did six during this trip alone. In Silicon Valley, Obama visited Facebook headquarters and did an online town-hall meeting – more outreach to the under-30 crowd.
The Obama reelection campaign, formally declared on April 4, is built on an assumption that there are no sure things in politics. It is raising money fast and furiously, with a goal of surpassing the 2008 "take" of $750 million. Team Obama is also not counting on a weak Republican nominee, despite the slow formation of the field and early support for "birther" billionaire Donald Trump. And analysts don't see any lingering specialness in Obama's identity as the first black president.
"He's like any incumbent president running for reelection," says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University in Washington. "The vote is going to be thumbs up or thumbs down on the administration, and that will depend on the state of the economy."
Unemployment remains high at 8.8 percent, home foreclosures are expected to continue at a high rate this year, $4-a-gallon gas has bruised consumer confidence, and voters are increasingly worried about deficits and the national debt. Overseas, the nation is embroiled in multiple unpopular wars. Bottom line: Obama may well find 2012 a tougher race than 2008, when he beat John McCain 53 percent to 46 percent. His 2008 electoral vote total was even more lopsided, at 365 to 173.