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Obama to launch bid for re-election – and embark on quest for big-money donors

Taking out insurance in case he is unable to generate the same grassroots enthusiasm among young voters and small political donors as he did in 2008, President Barack Obama is set to launch his re-election bid with a coast-to-coast tour of big money Democratic fundraisers.

The Obama campaign is expected to fire the starting gun of the presidential race this week – filing papers with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as early as today – and then hit the circuit for what is expected to be the most expensive election in history.

The White House is playing down the time Mr Obama will have to take off from his presidential duties to prepare for the showdown in November next year, saying it expects the campaign to be relatively subdued until spring 2012, but his campaign staff hope to stuff his war chest with money from rich supporters long before a Republican challenger is nominated.

In 2008, Mr Obama brought in almost $750m (£465m) from donors large and small, as his insurgent campaign bested first Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and then Republican nominee John McCain on the promise of hope, change and a new kind of post-partisan politics.

Even Mr Obama's closest supporters admit that reviving that atmosphere will be tough after more than two gruelling years in the White House. Independent voters have become disillusioned with the President's inability to achieve bipartisan compromise, while younger, left-leaning voters have watched with disappointment as he ran up against the realities of power, failing to make the big changes hoped on issues ranging from gay rights to foreign policy.

There are concerns, too, about whether the big money donors will flock to Mr Obama for 2012 as they did four years ago. Wall Street, which was a big constituency last time round, has been angered by the President's post-credit crisis reforms and anti-bank rhetoric – at least until the Democrats' defeat in mid-term elections last November prompted a new business-friendly tone from the administration.

For the past few weeks, Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, and Patrick Gaspard, the executive director of the Democratic party, have been criss-crossing the country meeting frustrated donors, hoping to re-energise them. Major donors are being set a target of raising $350,000 apiece.

Mr Obama is already slated to appear at party fundraising events this month in Chicago, New York, LA and San Francisco. Filing formal election papers with the FEC means that money from those events can now be split between the party and the President's re-election campaign.

Mr Obama is expected to be unchallenged in the Democratic primaries. Joe Biden, who is expected to be renominated as Vice-President, is meeting important supporters today in New Hampshire, where the first primary will be held in January.

Mr Obama's re-election campaign is likely to be announced via a text or email message to the thousands of grassroots supporters who signed up to his first presidential run. The campaign is also expecting to make a big fundraising push using social media. A campaign headquarters has been set up in Chicago in an effort to tune out the day-to-day noise of government in Washington and to recapture the outsider spirit of the last run.

"Small donors, grass-roots donors, medium-sized and major donors were all part of the mix in 2008 and they will be again in 2012," Democratic party spokesman Brad Woodhouse told The Washington Post. "We didn't rely on one type of donor then, nor will we now."

No Republican challengers have filed papers with the FEC so far, though Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, has set up a fundraising committee and Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has been touring donors to secure money for a second run for the White House.

Speculating to accumulate

* Barack Obama raised a total of $745m (£462m) for his presidential campaign, more than double the $320m mustered by Republican supporters of John McCain. This was despite the fact that Obama chose to opt out of the federal funding system, the first nominee from a major party to do so. 91 per cent of Obama's funding came from individual donors, in a campaign that prided itself on grassroots support, which is likely to be harder to come by this time round. During the 2008 race his campaign announced it had raised $10m in just 24 hours after Sarah Palin was named as McCain's running mate.