Organizing for America’s big test

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post
3/11/2010

1. Organizing for America, the organization within the Democratic National Committee intended to capture the energy of President Obama’s 2008 campaign and advocate for his legislative agenda, is ramping up its efforts to push for passage of the health care bill before the White House’s March 18 deadline.

“Each day until the vote, we’ll feature a powerful new way for OFA supporters to speak out in our communities and weigh in directly with Congress,” wrote David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, in an email to OFA supporters. Day one’s goal is to educate people about what’s in the health care bill (and, more importantly, what’s not), a recognition that, to date, the White House has lost the messaging battle around the bill. Among the ways in which OFA will try to do that: a “simple summary” of the bill and a fact sheet on the specific, positive changes the bill will put in place. (Obama sought to do a bit of educating on the bill in his own right during a fundraiser Wednesday night for Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri: “We are coming to a final vote in Congress, and that’s when folks in Congress, they get nervous,” the president said. “The Washington echo chamber is deafening, and it tells members of Congress to think about politics instead of what’s right.”)

The OFA push is a real test of the organization’s persuasive abilities within the party. The House vote looks like it will be decided by a small margin, with a number of Democrats publicly — and privately — on the fence about the legislation. OFA, according to its defenders, was built for exactly this sort of situation. But, there are lingering questions in the Democratic operative community about whether or not OFA has been effective in doing much of anything other than (sort of) rallying the base of the party behind Obama’s priorities.

This is OFA’s chance to put the whispers to rest and, to its credit, the group appears to be going all-in on health care. If the bill comes up short, the whispers about the organization’s ineffectiveness will grow into shouts. If OFA can show its efforts changed minds — or pushed a few wavering Democrats off the fence — the group can declare a real victory. It’s testing time.

The article continues at the Washington Post.

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