President Obama stretched his campaign legs on Wednesday by cherry-picking a few familiar themes from the 2008 election.
Obama is trying to shed the image that he is a politics-beholden incumbent by reviving his old argument that he is a Washington "outsider." But that could be a tough sell after two years in office.
Obama warmed up the crowd at two back-to-back events – one in Pennsylvania and one in New York – on Wednesday by reminding voters that he was a virtual unknown on the national political stage less than four years ago.
"Coming here today, I was reminded of what I said right here three years ago, back when it wasn’t sure that I was going to win the election," he said at a town hall-style meeting at Gramesa Technology Corporation, a wind turbine manufacturer he visited in March 2008. "I mean, you guys couldn’t pronounce my name."
The president also played with the familiar argument that "politics as usual" is preventing progress in Washington.
"I do not want to see Washington politics stand in the way of America’s progress," Obama said in Pennsylvania. In New York, Obama called the political system in Washington "broken," saying it was "all about the next election instead of the next generation."
Obama also tapped into some new themes. Most notably, he repeatedly reminded voters that change happens slowly, and urged patience. With the Republican field of 2012 presidential candidates still unclear Obama is trying to get ahead of his opponents, who are likely to point to his record and ask where all the "change" is.
Obama's capstone legislation, the health care overhaul, won't be fully implemented until 2014. He hasn't been able to get through Congress his immigration reforms – something he promised in the 2008 campaign – and he has yet to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.