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I assume native speakers have no problem at all with the beginning lines of the following paragraph of the article titled “In Primary Victory Speech, Mitt Romney Echoes Barack Obama’s 2008 Message” in today’s (April 25) Time magazine. But to me, a non-native English speaker, the line in bold below is confusing.

Barack Obama, circa 2008, may have just clinched the Republican nomination for President in 2012. Mitt Romney doesn’t look like Barack Obama. And they don’t share a governing philosophy. But when Romney claimed his title as presumptive nominee on Tuesday night, the former Massachusetts governor made clear his belief that Obama’s 2008 message of hope for American rebirth could work again in 2012.

Why does Barack Obama, who is a Democratic-party President, need to clinch the Republican nomination for President in 2008, or 2012 whichever?

Can you paraphrase the first line so that even a beginning English learner can understand?

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It's not you, this is confusingly written. – Neil Fein Apr 26 '12 at 3:04
@neil Fein.I’m still having difficulty in understanding the part in bold letters. If you agree this is 'confusingly written,' could you take a bother of rearranging this part in plainer way so that I, a dull-witted can get the idea? – Yoichi Oishi Apr 26 '12 at 9:04
It's confusing me as well! Can you point me at the original source? Maybe that would help. – Neil Fein Apr 26 '12 at 17:30
@Neil Fein. I simply cut and pasted the paragraph in question from the Time magazine’s article written by Michael Scherer under the title “In Primary Victory Speech, Mitt Romney Echoes Barack Obama’s 2008 Message.” You can look into the whole text to straighten out the point which I’m asking for, and you say it’s confusingly written by imputing ‘Michael Scherer, 4 25, 2012, in primary victory’ on the site. – Yoichi Oishi Apr 26 '12 at 21:56

Barack Obama, circa 2008, may have just clinched the Republican nomination for President in 2012.

Means that Obama's 2008 campaign is exactly what Romney is using in 2012

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It seems that the basic problem of my understanding the line in question seems to lie in how to interpret the word, “clinch” and the Republican “nomination”, not “nominee.” – Yoichi Oishi Apr 27 '12 at 11:45
clinch - means literally to grab someone, but also here it means to be certain that you have something in your hands. – mgb Apr 27 '12 at 12:49
@mgb, But why is circa used here? It is in fact of 2008 and not around 2008 isn't it? – Pacerier Jul 8 '14 at 9:14
@Pacerier yes it is the wrong use of circa. I think the author thought that it meant historically since it is mostly used in history books. – mgb Jul 14 '14 at 15:06

My first reaction is that he flubbed his first 3 years so badly that the Republican has to win now.

But in context, it seems to mean that the speech he made in 2008 is more suitable for his challenger now.

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I'd characterize Jeff's answer as close to the mark. My paraphrase is that the man who "just clinched the Republican nomination for 2012" is talking like "Barack Obama, circa 2008."

That is, as an "outsider" railing against the "insiders."

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I read it to mean that Obama's 2008 campaign would have gotten the republican nomination if he has used the same campaign in 2012 running as a republican.

Also, my rep on this stack is too low to comment, but I wanted to commend you on your English. I would not have questioned English being your primary language from your writing.

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