Obama getting a late start on campaign season

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., center, shakes hands with supporters as he arrives for his campaign stop in Fargo, N.D., July 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Barack Obama
Then Sen. Barack Obama campaigns in this 2008 file photo

President Obama has yet to launch his first official campaign swing, and his advisers say they may wait until later this spring, a move that would mean he will embark on his re-election tour at a later stage than President George W. Bush or President Bill Clinton.

The main reason being that Republicans have yet to decide on a nominee and the Obama team doesn't want to interfere in the bitter Republican family feud.

According to records by CBS' Mark Knoller, Mr. Clinton began campaigning early in the year. His first official campaign swing, on February 2, was a two-day trip to New Hampshire, with stops in Manchester, Concord, Nashua, Salem and Merrimack - even before Republicans had started their nomination contests.

In 2004, Mr. Bush got a later start, waiting until after Sen. John Kerry was declared the presumptive nominee, but he still didn't wait as long as Obama plans to. He held his first campaign rally in Orlando, Florida on March 20 and started attacking Kerry right out of the gate. "My opponent clearly feels strongly about each of these issues," he said, "so strongly that one position is never just enough."

And although Mr. Obama has made a few, indirect, swipes at Mitt Romney lately - on housing, the auto industry and the poor -- his team is happy to stand back and let the Republican candidates duke it themselves. They're hoping the fight goes as many rounds as possible.

"Clearly the [Republican] primary could go on for some time," said one of the president's closest political advisers, "and the shorter the campaign the better."

While the Chicago operation waits to engage, they will instead focus on stockpiling cash. And back at the White House, the president will continue to travel the country doing official events centered on his jobs agenda.

Still, even come April, Mr. Obama won't be able to devote himself to the full-time stump.

"He has a day job," said campaign manager Jim Messina in January, "his schedule just doesn't allow him to do very much fundraising."

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