Wistful Obama contemplates last campaign
The end is closer than the beginning.
For sure, the US president is banking on another four-and-a-half years before he steps off the global stage.
But as he cranks up his reelection campaign against Republican Mitt Romney, Obama is waxing nostalgic.
"One way or another, this will be my last campaign," he told a crowd gathered under floodlit trees on a sticky Ohio evening Thursday, before remembering the door-to-door politicking of his first campaign in Illinois.
For Obama, the prospect of bidding farewell to front line politics in six months, or four years later after a second term, may loom as more abrupt than for most politicians, given his swift rise to the pinnacle of power.
The president, then a newly minted Senator, with obvious designs on higher things, only came to Washington in early January 2005.
And the famously competitive Obama has made clear he intends to win a close race with Romney in November -- and must do so to cement his legacy or see it wiped out by a new Republican leader.
If reelected Obama will face a litany of what are sure to be draining crises, from a possible nuclear confrontation with Iran to completing the job of hauling the weary US middle classes out of their financial malaise.
It was not the first time that Obama had recently contemplated the fleeting nature of the US presidency, which limits incumbents to two four-year terms.
"It's fair to say that every president is acutely aware that we are just temporary residents -- we're renters here," Obama said at a White House unveiling of former president George W. Bush's portrait in May.
"We're charged with the upkeep until our lease runs out."
Obama's contemplative moment came on the first day of his first campaign bus tour of the 2012 race, as he cruised across the battlegrounds of Ohio and Pennsylvania which will be crucial to his fate on November 6.
Between vote-seeking speeches, he stopped his shiny black Secret Service bus, with a presidential seal on the door, at a diner, stocked up on healthy snacks at a fruit stall and quaffed a beer in a bar.
"I like that hair, man. I was thinking of getting some hair just like it," the graying Obama told a young boy resplendent with a spiky, blue dyed, hairdo at the Kozy Corners eaterie.
To a man with his wife and a baby nearby, the counselor in chief said "just do what she tells you to do," expounding on the secrets of a good marriage.
Later, Obama popped by Ziggy's bar in Amherst, Ohio, as a television on the wall tuned to CNN related Romney's latest monthly fundraising haul of more than $100 million.
The president clinked glasses with fellow drinkers as he sipped a pint of Miller Light, and was later pictured in a true man of the people pose, raising a glass with two young women.