Game on ... message off?

I like BuzzFeed, but their latest on the Obama campaign hype is just a wee bit too credulous to take seriously.  It’s been one year since Team Obama opened its headquarters in Chicago, and David Axelrod wants everyone to know that it’s now “game on” … as if the campaign hasn’t been producing ads and attacks on Republican opponents over the last several months.  Nonetheless, BuzzFeed seems unusually eager to report the anniversary of the launch as a big important deal:

And now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, the Obama team has flipped the ON switch for its reelection machine.

The Obama machine’s singular goal: to keep the president in his job by raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to recreate the momentum of 2008. There are now close to 700 hundred full time employees, an entire floor of office space, thousands of volunteers in well over 100 field offices across all 50 states, and the most impressive digital team a presidential campaign has ever assembled. There’s been experimentation—the tech team figured out a way to make the Obama website display perfectly on any device, a feat that wouldn’t have been possible even a year ago—and the entire office was designed to resemble a Silicon Valley start-up. More than half of the headquarters staff works for the campaign’s digital department. Messina even consulted with Palo Alto execs to find the “best practices,” says an Obama official, including carpets (quieter), mixing the staffs on the floor into teams rather than departments, bouncy balls, and communicating with instant messages and Twitter. “We ensure maximum collaboration so people don’t sit with their departments, they sit in teams,” Messina told BuzzFeed.

There’s a small warehouse of cool Obama gear for sale to the staff, all made in America, with an iPhone cover running for $40 (discounted to $35 for staff). A Ping-Pong table, state flags, ironic mementos on desks. The office does have sights that are more familiar to an old school campaign, too, like the speechwriters’ office, where a bar well stocked with Jack Daniels sits in front of the window. The 1.8 million donors, 50 percent of them new, according to Obama officials, have given $157 million through the end of February, with hundreds millions more to come. …

And now the Obama campaign is going to be part of the spectacle. “I walked into this headquarters a year ago and it was this big cavernous space, and it was symbolic in many ways of what we had to build,” Axelrod told BuzzFeed. “There is a sense of anticipation that this thing is entering a new phase. Game on.”

I looked through this article for any hint of real news, and didn’t find much.  They’ve had a year of fundraising and hired a bunch of people, created a lot of merchandising, and are prepared to fight the general election.  And … so? They didn’t face a primary fight, which means that they’ve had a year to focus on the general election — and we’re supposed to think that it’s news that they’ve prepared to do that?

Interestingly, there isn’t a mention in this article about the less-than-impressive fundraising efforts of Team Obama, which has fallen behind the pace set by George W. Bush in his 2004 bid, despite having Obama attend three times as many fundraisers in the same period of time.  A little over a year ago, sources in the campaign suggested that Obama could raise a billion dollars, a pace which they have utterly failed to match.  Wall Street donors have turned their backs on Obama.  None of this gets mentioned in the “game on” spin of the anniversary of opening the campaign HQ, although BuzzFeed does mention that they now expect to get outspent in 2012 by Romney and super-PACs.

Contrast this to the coverage at Politico, which wonders why the campaign hasn’t even managed to come up with a slogan, despite having 700 or so people employed and a year to figure out what their message should be:

Everyone knows what Barack Obama’s campaign slogan was in 2008. No one seems to know what it will be for 2012.

The White House has been cycling through catchphrases since announcing his reelection bid a year ago: Winning the Future, We Can’t Wait, An America Built to Last, An Economy Built to Last, A Fair Shot.

They seem to be looking for one to resonate — and the constant unveiling of new ones suggests that so far, none of them have. To communications experts, the kaleidoscope of slogans is the latest reflection of the difficulties finding and marketing a message that Obama has faced almost since his inauguration — another challenge that came with the shift from insurgent outsider to sitting president.

They can’t use the real subtext of the Obama campaign, which is More Of The Same.  Even their ads look like relics from 2008.  This is not a campaign that relishes running on the so-called accomplishments of the incumbent; almost 70% of voters wanted the Supreme Court to partially or completely overturn his signature legislation, and the economic stagnation of the last three years means he can’t run on pocketbook issues.  The only way he can win is if the election becomes another referendum on George W. Bush, which is exactly the message that Obama’s ads try to send.

It’s hardly “game on” at Team Obama.  So far, they can’t even figure out what the game is going to be.  The RNC hits this in their newest video spot: