President Barack Obama formally announced his 2012 re-election bid, saying the country needed “to protect the progress” it had made. “Today, we are filing papers to launch our 2012 campaign,” Obama said in a statement. -AFP Photo

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama launched his 2012 re-election campaign on Monday, framing his final stint as a candidate as an effort to cement and expand the policies he has enacted from the White House.

Obama, a Democrat who won a sweeping victory over Republican Senator John McCain in 2008 with a message of change, said in a low-key email to supporters that he was filing papers to start his re-election bid in a formal way.

“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,” he said in the email.

“We've always known that lasting change wouldn't come quickly or easily. ... 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 president, Obama secured an overhaul of the US healthcare system and financial regulation.

He has already started fundraising for Democrats in recent weeks. Filing papers with the Federal Election Commission will allow Obama to fill his own campaign coffers directly as well.

Political observers expect the Obama campaign to raise an unprecedented $1 billion for the race.

Obama raised a record $750 million to win the 2008 election while running as a senator from Illinois.

A handful of potential Republican challengers including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty are laying the groundwork for their own campaigns but none of them has formally announced a candidacy.

Early polls show Obama leading potential Republican rivals.

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