President Obama and Democrats are launching an unprecedented radio and e-mail blitz to coerce Senate Republicans into supporting the trillion-dollar stimulus package that earned zero Republican votes in the House.
Eager to characterize the stimulus deal as bipartisan, Obama is pulling out all the stops. He’s enlisting voters to host “Economic Recovery” meetings nationwide, sending e-mail blasts to mobilize millions of supporters, and even threatening to release jobless numbers in key districts to turn up the heat on his GOP opponents.
“Join thousands of people across the country by hosting or attending an Economic Recovery House Meeting this weekend,” Obama urged in an e-mail blast distributed Monday morning. “The stakes are too high to allow partisan politics to get in the way. That's why I've consulted with Republicans as well as Democrats to put together a plan that will address the crisis we face.”
A major complaint of GOP leaders in the House and Senate is that Democratic leaders refuse to significantly reduce the size of the bill, or limit it to its original purpose of stimulating the economy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a point last week of reminding Republicans that Democrats won the election.
Democratic strategist Brad Woodhouse told Politico.com: “The House Republicans put their senate colleagues in the crosshairs because they decided to play politics rather than do the right thing.”
Dick Morris, political strategist and author of the best-seller Fleeced, tells Newsmax that the huge e-mail list Obama accumulated during the campaign could have a major impact on the outcome of the stimulus battle in the Senate.
“The e-mail list that Obama has amassed is a major political powerhouse,” Morris says. “It permits constant, free, one-sided communication that can create an alternate reality for those who are on the list. And when the list is more than one-tenth of the US electorate, and averages over 25,000 per congressional district, it is a force to be reckoned with.”
In a classic carrot-and-stick strategy, Obama on Sunday wined and dined Republicans at a White House Super Bowl party, even as his supporters completed media buys to target key GOP senators thought to be vulnerable. The strategy: Threaten to link vulnerable senators to talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh, thereby driving away moderate supporters and portray the senators as badly out of touch with their constituents.
“We can understand why an extreme partisan like Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama’s jobs program to fail,” states the radio ad placed by Americans United for Change, a non-profit group some pundits have linked to MoveOn.org. “But the members of Congress elected to represent the citizens in their districts? That’s another matter. Now the Obama plan goes to the Senate, and the question is: Will our senator side with Rush Limbaugh too?”
Ads running in Ohio mention GOP Sen. George Voinovich after the words “our senator.” Whether Voinovich can be pressured remains to be seen. He recently announced he would not run for reelection in 2010, although the ads could complicate things for any would-be GOP successor.
In Nevada, the same ad names GOP Sen. John Ensign, who is up for reelection in 2012. By suggesting Republicans are unresponsive to the plight of unemployed workers, that ad also may be designed to boost Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, who is going to face a strong Republican challenge in 2010.
In Pennsylvania, the ad names GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, also up for reelection in 2010. Limbaugh on Friday charged that Obama is “lying” to Americans by exaggerating the gravity of the downturn in order to scare voters into supporting the massive spending bill.
Limbaugh’s reaction on his Friday program: "What do you think this week has all been about? This week has been about destroying the Republican Party. Democrats are begging Republicans to be moderate and join Democrats, because they know that the Republican Party trying to do Democrat Lite is how the party will destroy itself."
Other elements of Obama’s hardball plan to coerce the GOP on the trillion-dollar legislation: Obama and the Democratic National Committee are asking supporters who threw house parties during the campaign to open their homes this weekend to host “Economic Recovery House Meetings.” Participants will receive a meeting kit including a video and a list of talking points. “Time and again you’ve demonstrated your commitment to change. Now you can help America move in an important new direction,” the e-mail says.Obama is mobilizing his 13-million member Organizing for America group. Sources say Obama and Democrats will send at least one e-mail to each person on the list, defending the urgency of the stimulus bill. Obama supporters have indicated they will publicize unemployment and lost-jobs data in key districts, to pressure GOP senators. The message: A vote against the stimulus is a vote against unemployed workers. Politico.com reports the e-mail going out to Organizing for America members includes “state-by-state economic statistics, as well as information about how the stimulus package would affect each state.” Additional radio campaigns, thought to be funded mainly by pro-labor groups, are already underway. They target GOP senators in Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee, pressuring them to support the stimulus deal.
If nothing else, the campaign indicates that Obama’s talk of new politics won’t preclude old-fashioned political hardball.
Although the battle is in its early stages, so far the hardball strategy doesn’t appear to be having much effect.
Sen. Jon Kyl told the Associated Press that, if anything, support for the spending bill appears to be fading.
"When I say start from scratch, what I mean is that the basic approach of this bill, we believe, is wrong," Kyl said.
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