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Obama's 2012 campaign unofficially underway

By Jonathan Mann, CNN
Despite a roughly nine percent rate of employment in the U.S., Barack Obama's job approval rating is at 55%.
Despite a roughly nine percent rate of employment in the U.S., Barack Obama's job approval rating is at 55%.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barack Obama's re-election campaign is unofficially underway
  • Obama has emerged from disastrous November elections with a 55% job approval
  • Sarah Palin leads diluted pool of Republican candidates for 2012
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"Our Mann in America" is a weekly column discussing the big talking points in the U.S. for an international audience. Jonathan Mann is an anchor for CNN International and the host of Political Mann.

(CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama urged Americans to "win the future" this week, while moving ahead in the effort to do that himself as well.

Obama delivered the State of the Union address, an annual constitutional obligation which has become an opportunity for the White House to praise its accomplishments and sketch-out its plans.

In that ritual speech to lawmakers, judges, ambassadors and guests, Obama advanced a range of initiatives but passed-over one crucial item on his personal agenda: beginning his campaign for re-election.

Americans voted just a few months ago in Congressional elections that punished Obama's Democratic Party. His own job will be on the line the next time they go to the polls, in November of 2012.

Despite the severe 'shellacking' that even he concedes he suffered in the November, his prospects are now looking up.

With the American economy continuing to recover from recession and unemployment slowly reducing, Obama is rising in public opinion polls. In some respects, he's doing better than even some of his supporters say they'd expect.

"Right now, you have the president with 55 percent job approval at nine percent unemployment, which is quite frankly fairly remarkable," said Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. "The policies are working and I think the Americans are feeling it."

Obama has started staffing his re-election headquarters in his hometown, Chicago, and has shuffled his White House staff as well.

His potential Republican opponents aren't moving quite as fast. Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin continues to be the most prominent potential figure in the race, but she hasn't said publicly whether she'll run.

Recent public opinion polls put Obama ahead of her and every other potential candidate the Republicans are likely to put forward.

But the race hasn't really begun and it promises to challenge the president. Republicans now control the House of Representatives and are planning a series of confrontations over the Obama administration's policies and practices.

Unemployment is still high and government spending is still setting records. Both are serious problems for Obama's prospects.

"He's not a new president anymore," said former Republican White House aide Ari Fleischer. "It's time to judge him on results."

Americans seem to be doing that and increasingly, they are once again rallying behind Barack Obama.