Danny Rogers: Obama's journey to find new hope for US

Having just returned from two weeks in the United States - and having briefly reviewed the riot-torn, predictably moribund news agenda here - it's worth turning our attention to the intriguing reputational war developing across the pond.

Danny Rogers: Obama's journey to find new hope for US
Danny Rogers: Obama's journey to find new hope for US

We find a US President, who just three years ago ran an era-defining election comms campaign, in severe reputational difficulty.

So while UK politicians get themselves bogged down in inauspicious rhetoric of 'broken Britain', Barack Obama is personally venturing into the heartland of America.

This week he began a three-day tour of the mid-west in a bizarre-looking battle bus. Presumably heavily-armoured, the huge black RV just about sums up how much hope and optimism remains in the Obama message.

To be fair, he and his comms team have been dragged through the mill lately. Hard fought negotiations on raising America's debt ceiling not only failed to avoid a downgrade in the country's credit rating, but also involved weeks of deals with Republican rivals that hardly enhanced Obama's reputation as a principled and inspirational leader.

Indeed his falling opinion poll ratings are a result of various media attacks concerning his inability to lead and to find powerful political consensus in the way, say, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton once did. Obama has been accused of being a 'rose garden' leader, failing to get out there and seize the initiative on the serious issues.

So this is partly the reason he has taken to the road. The other reason he is heading to the mid-west is that his most serious rivals for next year's Presidential election are also campaigning there.

The straw poll in Iowa, a traditional start to the Republicans' race to find their Presidential nomination, saw hard-line, Tea Party candidate Michele Bachmann seizing the initiative. She is now a serious contender alongside Texas governor Rick Perry and the (slightly) more liberal Mitt Romney.

Obama is trying point out that America's economic crisis is principally the fault of his Republican predecessors, who spent so much on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and were too soft on Wall Street.

But more than anything his comms challenge is to recreate his image as a leader, a powerful personality with a vision for a brighter, stronger America.

Obama has had three comms directors since seizing power on that incredible day in November 2008. His current charge, Dan Pfeiffer, now has the mother of all PR battles on his hands.

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