By Sam Youngman - 03/17/11 02:39 AM EDT
President Obama boldly proclaimed Wednesday that he had fulfilled his most daring but abstract 2008 campaign pledge: "Change we can believe in."
Obama told a gathering of top donors and Democratic officials that, while his work is not finished, "we have made extraordinary progress over these last two years."
The president's remarks to about 500 members of the Democratic National Committee's Finance Committee and National Advisory Board were some of the strongest he has made yet in warming up for his re-election effort.
The president was introduced by 2008 campaign manger and senior advisor David Plouffe, whom the president hailed as having run "one of the finest presidential campaigns in American history."
Obama praised Plouffe's short tenure at the White House. "We've already seen just the enormous focus and energy and wisdom that he brings to the task of trying to make America adapt to the 21st Century and be successful for generations to come," Obama said.
The president made his most revealing remarks yet about how he will approach the balance of governing in such trying domestic and global times and running for re-election.
"As 2012 unfolds, I expect that we’re going to have a lot of questions and there are going to be vigorous debates, but I don’t want us to lose sight of the huge opportunities we have to seize the moment and make sure that America is not just changed, but is changed for the better," Obama said.
Given the crowd and the nature of the remarks, Obama acknowledged the fervid interest in the re-election campaign, calling out his political team.
"Now, obviously, 2012 is coming up, and everybody here is interested in politics and electoral votes and strategy, and I’m sure each one of you have a campaign plan that you’ll be handing off to [campaign manager Jim] Messina and Patrick Gaspard before you leave here tonight," Obama joked. "And there will be time for campaigning and there will be time for politics.”
But the president said that he has "always been a firm believer that good policy was good politics."
"And I’ve always been a believer that what made 2008 special was we didn’t tack to the varying political winds; we didn’t make decisions about where we stood on issues simply based on political expediency," Obama said. "Our goal was to make progress for the country."
The president acknowledged that the presidency is exhausting, but he said he is enjoying the job.
"There are times where Michelle reminds me that I volunteered for this job," Obama said to laughs. "Because she looks at me and I looked tired. But I'm telling you, I am having an extraordinary time, because there aren’t many moments in our lives where we know that we’re making a difference. And this is one of those moments."
Obama has not formally announced his re-election effort, but he is expected to do so in a matter of weeks.