It was clear to a cadre of pundits that the fundraiser in Harlem last week was President Obama’s first shot across the bow, the first indication that he was just about ready to toss his hat into the ring for re-election in 2012.

On Monday he made it official, stating in an email for broadcast, “We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in do not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you–with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers and friends, and that kind of campaign takes time to build.”

Indeed. But it might appear a bit disingenuous to his detractors for Obama to use the word “extravaganzas” negatively in view of the recent $30,800 a head affair for the Democratic National Committee at the Red Rooster–particularly since he is inseparably linked to that political body.

Since his chief of staff, David Axelrod, relocated to Chicago several months ago and Jim Messina recently departed for the Windy City to set up the campaign office and matrix, the handwriting was on the wall. Monday’s filing of papers was merely pro forma.

“So even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do,” Obama continued in his email, “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.”

Getting out of the gate before the Republicans settle on their top candidates may be a wise move for Obama as he seeks to round up moderates and independents, to say nothing of a new contingent of young supporters like those who were so absolutely indispensable to his victory in 2008.

With a new battle front in Libya, Obama’s ratings have not fared that well, but a recent boost in new jobs may counterbalance that and provide him with a little head of steam, especially if the economy continues to show signs of recovery.

“We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily,” he added. “It never does. 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.”

At the moment, the opposition doesn’t appear to have a solid contender. From the names bandied about, Mitt Romney seems to be the only legitimate Republican who might give Obama a run for his money. Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee are among other prominent possibilities, along with “Mama Grizzly” Sarah Palin.

Taken together, it’s not an impressive list, so it really is Obama’s race to lose, which would take a major boo-boo on his part.