Barack Obama’s approval ratings are down, Republican challengers are beating him in polls and the U.S. economy is in a slump, yet the Democratic president’s re-election campaign headquarters is buzzing.
There are no signs with “Hope” or “Change” — Obama’s popular slogans in 2008 — hanging prominently at the office in downtown Chicago. Simple “2012″ posters with the president’s website cover the walls instead.
But youthful enthusiasm abounds at the 50,000-square-foot (4,645-sq-m) nerve center, where some 200 staff members and volunteers are racing ahead of the Republican candidates in raising cash and setting up a national campaign network.
The space is nearly twice as big as Obama’s 2008 campaign headquarters, which came in around 31,000 square feet, and the team of strategists, web designers, money counters and message makers is expanding.
Young people just out of college play ping pong, maps and chalkboard paint cover the walls, and a life-size cardboard cutout of the president peers over a sea of desks.