With a new campaign website and a video featuring ordinary Americans, President Barack Obama announced his bid for re-election in 2012, with a central claim:

We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build.

Reuters has a more plausible story of why the President is starting his re-election campaign at this time: so he can pull as much as $1 billion out of wealthy donors to run his campaign.

President Barack Obama is no longer the outsider candidate who fueled his bid for the White House in 2008 with a flood of small donations from new and young voters inspired by his message of hope and change.

As a sitting president he has far greater authority and media access and his 2012 re-election campaign is expected to raise $1 billion, which is unprecedented in U.S. politics [...]

Aides note the huge number of individual donors who gave to Obama’s campaign — a record 4 million. But only 25 percent of the money came from small donors who gave $200 or less, according to the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington.

Obama will inevitably lose many of the individual donors who backed him four years ago, said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College and expert on campaign fundraising.

“That’s something that we’re not going to see this time around, that level of excitement about the Obama candidacy that we saw last time, from people who are not traditional donors or traditional Democratic primary voters,” he said.

The numbers pretty clearly show that the idea of Obama as a people’s candidate in 2008 was over-hyped. And while the public relations and campaign optics may try to recreate that in 2012, it will be a pale imitation. This will be a big-money race, as most races are these days in American politics. Bundlers are being told to collect $350,000 a piece. And this time, outside groups with connections to the President will most likely be employed, in the wake of the Citizens United decision, to counteract corporate spending in favor of the Republican candidate. From a fundraising standpoint, this game will be played at 20,000 feet.

So, nice try on the whole “politics begins with you” thing.

I’ll put the entire message from the President, sent via email, on the flip.

Today, we are filing papers to launch our 2012 campaign.

We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build.

So even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.

We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily. It never does. But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we’ve made — and make more — we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.

As we take this step, I’d like to share a video that features some folks like you who are helping to lead the way on this journey [...]

In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we’ll build together in cities and towns across the country. And I’ll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that’s farther reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we’ve built before.

We’ll start by doing something unprecedented: coordinating millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause, and readying ourselves for next year’s fight.

This will be my final campaign, at least as a candidate. But the cause of making a lasting difference for our families, our communities, and our country has never been about one person. And it will succeed only if we work together.

There will be much more to come as the race unfolds. Today, simply let us know you’re in to help us begin, and then spread the word.