Obama launches campaign on a personal note

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at the Ohio State University in Columbus Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Obama says Mitt Romney has no "better vision" of America's future

This weekend saw the official launch of President Obama's campaign to win the White House for a second term.

I had been wondering what on earth would be new about these rallies. After all, for months he has been turning up in a couple of swing states every week arguing his case and highlighting the ways in which he claimed the Republicans were blocking sensible proposals.

This was official government business, not an election campaign, they told us, but it was hard to spot the difference.

The difference this weekend is that it got personal. He's calling Mitt Romney out by name.

Mind you, he went out of his way to make sure it didn't sound too personal.

"Governor Romney is a patriotic American who has raised a wonderful family, and he has much to be proud of," he said.

"He's run a large financial firm, and he's run a state."

But he went on: "I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences. He sincerely believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money, the rest of us will automatically prosper as well."

Obama is also sounding a positive, patriotic note. It is a familiar, but often successful tactic by an incumbent - to portray your opponents as running the country down.

"The other side won't be offering these Americans a real answer to these questions. They won't offer a better vision or a new set of ideas... Over and over again, they will tell you that America is down and out."

The Romney campaign have condemned all this as "the same distractions, distortions, excuses, and finger pointing that we've grown used to from this White House."

No matter how hard Barack Obama tries to make this election about "hype and blame", as Mitt Romney put it, "it's still the economy - and we're not stupid."

That is the huge hurdle that Obama has to leap. As the Washington Post wisely if inelegantly put it: "Obama launches campaign against Romney, but his real opponent is the economy".

One message you could take from the two European elections is the scarcely surprising one that incumbents get kicked out when the economy is bad.

But you could also argue those particular incumbents are suffering for implementing austerity programmes.

Americans may have a different attitude towards government spending but it will be fascinating to see how Romney fares with his promise of deeper cuts against Obama's arguments for continued stimulus for some areas of the economy.