Hope and change: Obama doing everything he can to run unopposed in 2012

Call this a brushback pitch at Chris Christie and the GOP field. Actually, it's Obama's second brushback pitch -- the first is the Obama camp's announcement that they plan to raise a billion dollars for Obama's re-election campaign. His latest is the leak that Camp O is digging up dirt on a guy who isn't running and isn't likely to run against him.

Despite New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's repeated pronouncements that he will not seek the GOP presidential nomination, Obama operatives are compiling a dossier of what they call "opposition research" -- material that could be used to damage Christie if he changes his mind, The Post has learned.

The Obama campaign is trying to keep its efforts from public view, concerned they would only elevate Christie's already impressive standing within the Republican Party, sources said.

The operatives have chosen not to dispatch their own people to New Jersey, but instead are talking to people there and in New York who know Christie from his time in the governor's office, as a gubernatorial candidate and as US attorney.

Christie is not running for president, at least not in 2012. But he's not the target of this campaign leak. Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, everyone already in or thinking about running against Obama -- they were  the leak's actual targets. Daniels was still running when this story was being leaked and written; now, of course, he's not.

Trying to win by running essentially unopposed fits Obama's MO. Obama famously cleared the field when he ran for state Senate in Illinois, getting rival candidates tossed off the ballot. He got into the US Senate fueled by a strategic leak of sealed divorce files, forcing Jack Ryan out on the Republican side. Now he's trying to intimidate his way to re-election by telling all potential rivals (in both parties, actually) that he will have a billion dollars to spend, all on hammering them with oppo research and negative ads next year.

Among other things, this tells us that the Obama team know they're going into re-election in a weak position. They understand that the issues work against them. So they will do everything in their power to clear the field and retain power by whatever means are necessary.