10/04/2011 16:55

CHICAGO – President Barack Obama’s relationship with his hometown may be best described as a long-distance love affair.

That looks like it’s about to change.


Obama is returning to his roots as he embarks on his re-election race for 2012. He’s setting up his campaign headquarters in a downtown high-rise near Grant Park, the site of his victory celebration in November 2008.

A Chicago base could reinforce a connection to a city that aides say keeps Obama grounded while he lives in the nation’s capital.

“The conversation in Washington is completely different than the conversation you hear out here,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist who left the White House this year to return to Chicago to work on the re-election

Obama’s advisers hope a Chicago location could insulate his campaign from some of the Washington chatter and news leaks that can plague campaigns. A beyond-the-Beltway headquarters could also allow them to offset the perception that Obama, who campaigned as an outsider and promised a new approach to politics, has become a political insider.

“Basing it in Chicago says, ‘I’m not of Washington,’ but if he doesn’t spend time in Chicago, he is of Washington,” said Paul Light, a public service professor at New York University.

As president, Obama has made only about a half a dozen visits to Chicago, often to raise money for candidates. He’s made only a few overnight trips to his South Side house.