WASHINGTON -- It's been a subtle alteration but an alteration nonetheless. In his past two campaign speeches, President Barack Obama has adopted a construct that puts particular emphasis on how his 2008 promise of change has resulted in practical life improvement.
At a fundraiser Wednesday night in New York City, the new line was on display, with the president deploying the phrase "Change is" on a dozen occasions.
"Change is the first bill I signed into law -- a law that says you get an equal day's work -- somebody who puts in an equal day's work should get equal day's pay."
"Change is the decision we made to rescue the auto company from collapse, even when some politicians were saying we should let Detroit go bankrupt."
"Change is the decision we made to stop waiting for Congress to do something about our addiction to oil and finally raise fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 30 years."
"Change is health care reform that we passed after a century of trying."
And so on.
The formulation actually debuted at a Nov. 14 Obama campaign event at the Aulani Disney Resort in Hawaii, where he declared "Change is" on 10 occasions. Prior to that, Obama hadn't used the rhetorical device at all.
"It's an effort to take back the mantel of change that started around the west coast swing," said a Democratic strategist, who spoke about the new line on condition of anonymity, "to circle back to the fundamental point of the '08 campaign and to illustrate how that change has been accomplished."
The Obama campaign is downplaying the significance of the new phrase, arguing, correctly, that the president has always played up his administration's accomplishments while on the trail. But the revised frame is a bit different, giving more than a subtle nod to supporters that their investment in the 2008 campaign paid off. It was hardly coincidental that on Wednesday evening, the president prefaced the rift by declaring: "Three years later, because of what you did in 2008, we have already started to see what change looks like."
Though the talking point aims to get those who work in the policy-politics arena fired up, it's not without potential potholes. Obama aides often say that elections are choices, not referendums. And while the president does continue to spend a good chunk of his campaign speeches contrasting his vision of the future with that of the GOP, discussing the change he has achieved does invite people to assess his broader record.
That, of course, isn't a bad thing. But it can be tricky. Two prominent Democratic operatives -- pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville -- are fond of warning that the hardest thing to do is to run for reelection in a slowly recovering economy. The more you tout your accomplishments, they say, the more people wonder why they haven't felt the improvements.