The Wall Street Journal:
The Obama campaign is planning an aggressive effort in coming weeks to raise money off of Mr. Romney, and the president will headline at least two campaign rallies in early May, perhaps in the swing states of Ohio and Virginia, according to people familiar with the events.
"People are more apt to get involved, both in terms of contributions and in terms of volunteer efforts, once the race has clarified itself, so in that sense this development has meaning," said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's longtime messaging guru who is advising the campaign.
Though Mr. Obama has taken part in many events with a campaign cast—and his rhetoric has become noticeably sharper and more partisan in recent weeks—his political advisers say he won't fully plunge into campaign mode until the summer. Mr. Obama has so far restricted his campaign appearances to fundraising events, eschewing traditional rallies so he could run something of a "Rose Garden" strategy, highlighting his role as chief executive. The campaign said a final decision hasn't been made on when or where he will hold rallies.
His appearances have largely been considered official events, with the costs covered by taxpayers. That era is coming to an end, though, meaning the presidential seal will come off the podium and his campaign will cover more event costs.
(...) Mr. Obama's advisers also are crafting what they consider the overarching theme they will use to confront Mr. Romney. That theme is likely to be that the former Massachusetts governor is out of touch with average Americans, advisers said, though they have also considered making their focus what they describe as Mr. Romney's malleability on the issues.
(...) The downside for Mr. Obama is that once he fully joins the campaign fray, virtually every action he takes, everything he says, will be seen in purely partisan terms. To some degree, that was already becoming a problem. Mr. Obama's White House forum on women and the economy last week was seen as a clear attempt to woo women voters.
Joining the battle against Mr. Romney also will ratchet up campaign expenses. Air Force One alone costs $179,750 per hour to operate, a sum that includes fuel and maintenance. When Mr. Obama travels to political events, his campaign picks up part of the travel costs, including reimbursing for travel on Air Force One based on a government-set rate.
Obama campaign aides say they have been studying the re-election campaigns of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton for guidance on when it makes sense to enter full-scale campaign mode and take part in traditional re-election rallies.
Mr. Bush took part in his first rally in the perennial swing state of Florida on March 20, 2004, according to one former Bush White House official. Singer Billy Ray Cyrus provided the entertainment. He used the speech to deliver a fierce attack on his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, presenting him as a serial flip-flopper. Karen Hughes, a former adviser to Mr. Bush, said in an email Wednesday that the goal at the time was to "keep him as 'president' rather than candidate for as long as possible."
Mr. Clinton held events in the spring of 1996 that would be considered official in nature, though his memoirs make clear he thought of them as campaign events. For example, on March 7, 1996, he went to a high school in Maryland to tout his record on crime and urge students to stay off drugs. He didn't mention his '96 opponent, former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. In his autobiography, Mr. Clinton described the appearance, though, as a campaign event he had undertaken while "Dole was moving toward the nomination."