Change: Obama now peddling more "modest" American dream

“If you’re willing to put in the work, the idea is that you should be able to raise a family and own a home; not go bankrupt because you got sick, because you’ve got some health insurance that helps you deal with those difficult times; that you can send your kids to college; that you can put some money away for retirement,” Obama said recently in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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“That’s all most people want,” he said. “Folks don’t have unrealistic ambitions. They do believe that if they work hard they should be able to achieve that small measure of an American Dream.”

The goals can seem almost humdrum in comparison with some of the rhetoric from Obama’s 2008 White House campaign. But the message sounds made for the times, with the country emerging haltingly from recession, the income gap widening and unemployment stuck above 8 percent.

“He can’t run on change because he’s the incumbent, and he can’t paint too rosy a scenario because things aren’t that rosy,” said John Geer, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. “He’s got to come up with a theme that appeals to voters, especially middle-class voters, alleviates their fears and gives them reason to believe the future will be better.”

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