As a key campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, Jim Margolis says Obama will be in a different position as he seeks to win a second term in the White House in 2012.
“The campaign coming up is going to be a lot different than the 2008 campaign,” Margolis told more than 100 people Wednesday at the Dole Institute of Politics. “We can’t recreate what we did in 2008.”
With his lead role in Obama’s $450 million advertising effort three years ago, Margolis related several inside stories about video ads. One was meant to highlight Obama’s credentials, and another used Sen. John McCain’s own words — “the fundamentals of our economy are strong” — against him at the height of the financial crisis.
However, Margolis, who said he would work for Obama’s re-election campaign, acknowledged that the success of the last campaign has not translated as a whole to governing the past two years. Democrats lost control of the House to the GOP in last November’s midterm elections.
“I’m not sure that we’ve told our story well enough,” he said. “I’m not sure that people appreciate what all’s been done, but I’m also very cognizant of the fact that people lead busy lives.”
It’s a difficult task for Democrats to make an argument highlighting their record, especially to people who are still struggling economically, he said. And Obama this time isn’t just waking up every day preparing to hit the campaign trail with his ads running all over the country. As president he’s seeing the world’s biggest problems — from Libya to Japan — land on his desk day after day.
So Margolis sees Obama’s 2012 campaign more about trying to distinguish the incumbent president on issues from his Republican opponent. Many big issues are in play, especially with Congress debating big-ticket budget items like the future of entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security.
“You’ve got a lot of the biggest issues we’re dealing with as a country right now,” said Margolis, a longtime political adviser who is president and senior partner at GMMB, an advertising and advocacy agency. “We’ve got to help people understand what’s in front of them.”