By Amie Parnes - 01/10/12 10:15 AM EST
President Obama’s reelection campaign appears to be picking up speed.
Just days after administration officials said Obama wouldn’t be doing much campaigning, the president appears to be doing just that — and he's using the New Hampshire primary to rev up his campaign.
And for the first time this year, on Monday night, Obama took his first shot — albeit a light one — at Republicans campaigning in the Granite State: “The very core of what this country stands for is on the line. Don’t take my word for it, watch some of these debates that have been going on up there in New Hampshire,” the president said to laughter.
Obama made the remarks at his second of two fundraisers on Monday night. At the first event, 25 guests paid $45,000 each to attend a roundtable discussion with the president. More than an hour later, Obama’s motorcade took him down the street for another fundraiser that featured a performance by Sara Bareilles.
And the campaigning doesn’t stop there this week. On Wednesday afternoon, one day after the New Hampshire primary, Obama will travel to Chicago, where he will speak at a fundraising event at the UIC Forum, with special guests actor Hill Harper and R&B musician Janelle Monae.
The fundraisers, observers say, give Obama a chance to be part of the news cycle during a dizzying, attention-grabbing week for Republicans in the presidential race.
“The president and his team clearly recognize that all the attention is on the Republican side,” said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. “He wants to remind people — especially his Democratic base and independent voters — that’s he’s around, too.”
In recent days, senior administration officials have insisted that Obama isn’t in campaign mode — yet. One senior administration official said last week that Obama would only begin campaigning this summer. When Obama traveled to swing state Ohio last week, aides said that was official business, not a campaign stop.
At the White House on Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated that Obama has a “day job” and the president’s “level of engagement” on his campaign is “relatively low now because he has work to do as president.”
“He is very focused on his No. 1 priority, which is doing everything he can as president,” Carney said. “The campaign, when it comes, in terms of his enhanced engagement, will consume more time at the appropriate time. But … that’s not now for him.”
Less than two weeks into the new year, Republicans have already labeled him the “campaigner in chief.”
“We suspected the turn to 2012 meant the end of governing, and the president is proving us right,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman at the Republican National Committee.
“The White House seems to spend as much time denying their focus on fundraising as they do raising money from the 1 percent-ers they condemn,” added Republican strategist Doug Heye. “Next they’ll be telling us the president doesn’t own golf clubs as a pool report describes a chip shot from the back nine.”
On Monday night, with the general election still at least weeks, if not months, away, Obama tried to energize a crowd of nearly 700 as if he was in the thick of the race.
“Change is hard, but it’s possible,” Obama said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And if you want to end the cynicism and the game-playing and the point-scoring here in Washington, then this is the election to send a message that you refuse to back down, you will not give up.
“You intend to keep hoping. You intend to keep fighting for the change we talked about, the change we believed in,” he added.