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Why President Obama really announced today: M-o-n-e-y

From the CNN Political Unit
President Obama officially kicked off his re-election bid Monday.
President Obama officially kicked off his re-election bid Monday.
  • Monday marks the official start of President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign
  • By filing papers with the FEC, he can begin to fundraise for his campaign
  • Sources says Obama has already made calls to top donors

Washington (CNN) -- Make no mistake about it: Monday's re-election announcement by President Obama is about the money.

By filing papers with the Federal Election Commission, the president can begin to fundraise for his re-election campaign. In fact, his campaign has quietly been lining up events across the country for the next few months.

Expect, for instance, to see Obama headline some big-dollar fundraising events starting April 14 in Chicago, where he has set up his re-election headquarters and shipped his top lieutenants to prepare for the campaign.

In 2007 and 2008, then-Sen. Obama of Illinois shattered all records by raising $745.7 million in the last presidential election. The goal this time: $1 billion.

Why now?

How some winning campaigns started
2007: Obama launches presidential bid
GOP candidates lie low

Because the clock is ticking.

The second quarter of fundraising began Friday, April 1. The second quarter comes to a close at the end of June, and by then, the Obama re-election campaign will have to show its cards.

Candidate Obama turned heads -- and established early on that he would be a serious fundraiser -- by raising a whopping $59 million during the first half of 2007. His campaign surely wants to at least match that level again.

The president's re-election team has been asking campaign bundlers to gather $350,000 each, no easy task since campaign finance laws limit gifts to $2,500 per donor. However, following the recent Supreme Court ruling, corporations and political action committees have virtually no limits in spending on noncandidate, issue-oriented campaigning this election season.

Two sources tell CNN that the campaign team hopes that in total, its bundlers will raise $500 million, leaving the campaign to raise another $500 million and amass a record-breaking $1 billion war chest.

According to these sources, the president has made calls to top donors, and conference calls are planned this week to supporters and key Democratic groups.

His vice president, Joe Biden, is getting in the game, too. On the same day Obama announced, Biden traveled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to headline a gathering for Organizing for America, the grass-roots outreach wing of the Democratic National Committee.

Organizers said he wasn't going to be doing any fundraising -- he was expected to thank supporters and generate excitement about 2012 -- but you can be certain the trip will also help plant the seeds of interest for future donations.

Another interesting aspect about Obama's announcement Monday was just who was featured in the video piece, hosted online at

The first three people to speak were from key swing states -- North Carolina, Nevada and Colorado, all states Obama won in 2008 but will be a challenge this time around -- and the video included several people of color. And they went after the youth vote again. Mike, the young man from New York who spoke about the 2008 election, wasn't even old enough to vote for Obama back then.

Even though the 2012 presidential election has been slow to officially get going -- only Republicans Herman Cain, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer have announced presidential exploratory committees so far -- the timing of the announcement from the president isn't all that out of sync with previous incumbents.

In 2003, President George W. Bush formally filed his paperwork in May of that year, and Bill Clinton filed in mid-April 1995. George H.W. Bush waited until October 1991 to formally indicate he was running again, and Ronald Reagan also waited until October 1983 to jump into the re-election process.

Still, the campaign to re-elect the president has been quietly developing, some would argue, for the past two years. Now, the money game can officially begin.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Jessica Yellin, Alex Mooney and Bryan Monroe contributed to this report.