As the Republican candidates beat each other to death in a bitter contest to see which bloodied and broken combatant emerges as the “winner” (in quotes because I think whoever it is will still be at war with a major segment of the GOP), I thought it might worth reminding everyone that the Democrats have no such worries, and Barack Obama has already started campaigning in earnest.

I refer not to the “State of the Campaign” speech the other night, but to Obama’s visit to my neighborhood tomorrow morning. He’ll be speaking at the Al Glick Field House a short block away, and the kids in this student town are already in a state of rapture. They started lining up last night at 7:30 p.m. for tickets that weren’t for sale until nearly 14 hours later, and there’s even a touching article about the first lucky guy who got a ticket.

Obama mania is back in full swing!

Roughly 3,000 people Thursday morning received tickets to President Barack Obama‘s upcoming speech —many camping outside overnight to secure their place in line— and still hundreds of hopefuls were turned away.

It’s clear: Obama mania has seeped into the University of Michigan campus as the school prepares for his speech on college affordability Friday at 9:35 a.m. at the Al Glick Field House.

Many students standing in line and roaming around campus lived here in 2010 when Obama was the spring commencement speaker, and we asked them how this month’s impromptu visit compares with the last time the president and his entourage descended upon Ann Arbor.

“There’s been a lot of talk on campus. In all my classes students have been talking about if they’re going to go get tickets and professors are talking about it in class,” said senior political science and American culture major Amanda Caldwell, president of the U-M College Democrats. “But to have a sitting president come and give a commencement speech is very different than what he’s doing now.”


What he’s doing now is, of course, campaigning:

Obama, who will become the first sitting president to visit U-M’s Ann Arbor campus twice, will deliver his speech three days after the State of the Union address, where he’s expected to seek to define the role of the government in sparking economic growth.Although the speech won’t be billed as a campaign event, it’s clearly part of the president’s election year effort to highlight his accomplishments in a state has benefited directly from his policies.

Obama is sure to remind the crowd that he championed $50 billion in federal financing to help guide General Motors and Chrysler through their bankruptcy filings in 2009.

His support of the auto bailouts — which saved thousands of jobs — is looking increasingly crucial because winning Michigan is vital to the president’s reelection, said Craig Ruff, an analyst with nonpartisan Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants.

“It’s great that Michigan is on the swing state tour,” Ruff said. “It shows that the president is not taking Michigan for granted.”

He is obviously going out of his way to court the student vote. Talking about college affordability and promising lower tuition is music to their young and tender ears.

And those mean old white Republicans are so out of touch that they “haven’t done anything” to get young people’s support!

Caldwell, the U-M senior, says Obama hasn’t lost his relevance among young people.

“Republicans… haven’t done anything to get young people’s support. “I think Obama will have just as much support from young people as before.”

Obama is not wasting any time, and he certainly doesn’t appear to be taking the youth vote (which was the backbone of his 2008 campaign) for granted. As to whether he’s lost his relevance among young people, the only relevance that matters will be on Election Day, when they’ll probably line up again for an Election Day youth party!

I can’t see them lining up for either Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney. Ron Paul is the only Republican who seems to have anything approaching youth appeal.

But what do I know? I’m just an aging white man commenting on the latest antics in my hood.

UPDATE: In case anyone is interested in being subjected to the president’s speech, it can be streamed live here.

AND MORE: Obama says he wants a second term “badly.”

Isn’t that the way he’s run his first term?

Plus, he’s already campaigning against Gingrich:

Obama pushed back against what he called Republicans’ “rhetorical flourishes,” including Newt Gingrich’s oft-repeated contention that Obama is the “food stamp president.”


…he said the rhetoric from conservatives like that used by Gingrich illustrates an attempt by Republicans to engage in the same divisiveness that they profess to decry.

“The American people are going to make a judgment about who’s trying to bring the country together and who’s dividing it, who reflects the core values that helped create this country … and who is tapping into some of our worst instincts,” he said.

The above would seem to confirm my earlier speculation that Gingrich is the guy he wants to run against.

UPDATE (1/27/12, 12:15 p.m.): An hour ago I walked to the corner with my camera and happened to catch the presidential motorcade when it was leaving. (The president is in the second limousine.)

MORE: Text of speech here.