Is Obama In Permanent Campaign Mode?

(CBS)
It was the closest thing to a Freudian slip for the almost-always focused and disciplined President Obama. Twice during his nationally broadcast news conference, Mr. Obama reinforced the notion of a permanent campaign by referring to "this race."

Asked what surprised him the most about his first 100 days, Mr. Obama responded, "I am surprised compared to where I started, when we first announced for this race, by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time. You know, when I first started this race, Iraq was a central issue, but the economy appeared on the surface to still be relatively strong. There were underlying problems that I was seeing with health care for families and our education system and college affordability and so forth, but obviously, I didn't anticipate the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

It was just an aside, of course. But it was something of a telling one coming during substantive comments on issues that included swine flu, troubled automakers, terror suspect torture and the other pressing items on the crowded Obama agenda.

As Mr. Obama framed "this race," he derided the politics of Washington. Like many of his predecessors, the president complained about "political posturing and bickering even when we're in the middle of really big crises." He even suggested a "time-out on some of the political games." Referring to the next congressional election cycle, he suggested the need for a pause to "focus our attention for at least this year and then we can start running for something next year."

There are other signs that the campaign after the campaign is continuing.

Parts of the Obama White House look to be in campaign mode. The press office resembles a campaign war room. Young aides work shoulder to shoulder answering phone calls, sending e-mails and dealing with in-person questions from reporters. In some cases, two staffers sit at desks built for one person.

The seemingly permanent Obama campaign continues beyond the White House too Hoping to keep millions of supporters energized, Obama '08 campaign manager David Plouffe has sent out a steady stream of e-mails promoting the president's agenda.
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    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.