Obama faces two opponents as he launches re-election bid

President Obama smiles during an event to promote clean energy vehicles, Friday, April 1, 2011, at a UPS facility in Landover, Md. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
It's official! Barack Obama is running for president.


"So even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today," the current president wrote to his supporters when announcing his intention to keep his job through 2016.

How he does his current job will be the determining factor if he gets another four years.

In the video that accompanied President Obama's announcement, one of the average Americans featured set the tone for the campaign.

"I don't agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him," said Ed, a slightly southern accented man from North Carolina. (watch the video at left)

Trust may be a key issue for the president's bid for a second term. While Republicans will bash him for just about everything in the next year and half, the president will hope to rise above the chatter and show that's he's the president and, for the most part, that he's the one who can be trusted to do what's right for the country.

Right now, he has two different opponents -- we'll call them congressional Republicans and presidential Republicans. And for now, there's very little overlap.

First, congressional Republicans, backed by the Tea Party, are fighting the president over spending and the budget. There is this week's battle over the rest of the year budget on how much to cut from the federal spending rolls. And there's the battle for next year's budget that starts this week -- on major spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. House Republicans are preparing their own budget hoping to cut over $4 trillion dollars over the next decade that would drastically change the big spending entitlement programs that are big drivers of government debt.

"We're not going to go down the path of raising taxes on people and raising taxes on the economy. We want to go after the source of the problem, and that is spending," said Republican budget architect Rep. Paul Ryan yesterday on Fox News Sunday.

Obama launches 2012 campaign with web video
GOP attacks as Obama announces re-election bid

For months those same House Republicans had been attacking the White House for failing to lead on the entitlement reform idea. Now they've taken the lead and are making the White House battle back. But at the same time they are giving the president and his allies a plan to attack and frame. The White House will try to use the Ryan plan to paint Republicans as the party of cuts to working families and the poor, while letting the rich keep their big tax cuts and generous benefits.

If the long-term budget can't get solved by the end of the fiscal year, which ends in September, there could be another specter of a government shutdown. The last time there was a shutdown, it was 1995 when then the House Republicans fought with a president running for re-election over the Fiscal Year 1996 budget. Then, the Republicans controlled the House AND the Senate and the Senate leader was Bob Dole who was running for President.

In 2011, there isn't any overlap between Republican congressional leadership and Mr. Obama's opponent number two: presidential Republicans - those running or planning to run against him next year.

Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images
What's interesting about Mr. Obama's announcement today is that it came BEFORE any of the Republicans officially announced they were running for his job. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is the only top tier Republican to officially announce an exploratory committee and raise money to run, and the rest are still sort of testing the waters, though obviously many of the other names out there, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Michele Bachmann will probably commit to a run sooner rather than later.

But overall, the presidential Republicans are off in Iowa and New Hampshire, with some trips to South Carolina and Nevada, to court GOP primary voters. Here's where the two Obama opponents diverge from their shared goal of beating the president. Congressional Republicans are attacking the White House on spending, entitlements and the budget while presidential Republicans are attacking each other - trying to prove they are the true social conservative or the true fiscal conservative to win the first battle, before they can even begin to expand their message to the general population.

This gives the president an opening. He can use the House Republicans, and the Tea Party's pledge for drastic spending cuts or even a government shutdown, as a foil - painting the GOP as extreme on spending and benefit cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

At the same time, the presidential Republicans are largely absent from this fight and are left to attack the White House on broad brush issues like "leadership." They are also attacking the White House on jobs and the economy, but recent jobs reports show positive trends on economic growth that, if they continue, will only help the president.

And with foreign policy such a prevalent issue recently, some presidential Republicans have been caught trying to have it both ways, opposing whatever Mr. Obama wants even if he came around to positions that they had previously supported.

So as he battles House Republicans in the near term over federal spending, and presidential Republicans battle each other to win Republican primary voters, the next few months could be a ripe opportunity for President Obama to be able to campaign and yet stay above the fray and focus on "the job" he was elected to do.

Below, Rob Hendin and Chip Reid discuss how Obama will try to keep the campaign and White House separate:


  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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