WASHINGTON -- Imploring supporters to stick with him, President Barack Obama acknowledged yesterday that his re-election is not "a slam dunk" because of understandable public skepticism over the economy but said his campaign would put forward a vision aligned with the mood of the country.
The president, addressing donors at a hotel near the White House, drew attention to his efforts to heal the economy, end the Iraq War and overhaul health care but said "all those things don't mean that much to somebody if they're still out of work right now or their house is still under water by $100,000. So, yeah, this is going to be tough."
"We're going to have to fight for it. It's not going to be a slam dunk," he said.
Obama said the campaign would pursue "the vision that is truest to our history and most representative of the core decency of the American people."
Obama spoke hours after his top campaign advisers said they were uncertain about which Republican will emerge to challenge him next year but predicted a long GOP primary contest that they say will produce a weaker opponent in 2012.
Democrats have been targeting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the most likely GOP nominee but noted that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's surge in the polls made the GOP contest unpredictable.
Obama campaign officials said during a briefing in Washington that only 15 percent of Republican convention delegates will be awarded by the end of February, making it likely that the contest will continue well into the spring.
"They're being tugged to the right every day. I think they're mortgaging themselves for the general [election] by tacking as far as they are," Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said of the GOP candidates. He said that would make it more difficult for the nominee to appeal to a broader base of the electorate.
Axelrod likened Gingrich's rise to a common quip in Chicago politics: "The higher the monkey climbs on the pole, the more you can see his butt." Reacting to the $10,000 bet Romney offered Texas Gov. Rick Perry during Saturday's debate in Iowa, Axelrod said, "Generally his practices have been to bet other people's money, not his own."
Republicans said Obama and his advisers talk about his "vision" for the country but that he has made empty promises. "After three years of Obama, Americans want results -- not more of his vision that has lost jobs and created record deficits," said Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman.