- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

UPDATED:

With lawmakers split on the details and the White House losing support for its health care effort, President Obama will seek to recapture momentum by reaching out to Americans who helped him during the campaign.

Facing a newly energized Republican Party and alarmed liberal interest groups, Mr. Obama in a 24-hour blitz is speaking to faith leaders, trying to woo conservatives and returning to his campaign supporters to rebuild a coalition for health care.

“Time and again, men and women of faith have helped to show us what’s possible when we’re guided by our hopes and not our fears,” the president told people from more than 32 religious groups on a conference and Web call Wednesday night, following an earlier call with rabbis.

Mr. Obama framed health care as a moral issue that “goes to the heart of who we are as a people,” comparing the fight to the battle over the creation of Social Security and Medicare.

He also attempted to summon the campaign spirit of urgency, telling faith leaders, “I’m going to need the help of all of you … to knock on doors, talk to your neighbors.”

He’ll follow a similar theme Thursday when addressing supporters gathered by Organizing for America, the spinoff of his presidential campaign now housed at the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Obama will take questions collected for the online forum and thank the group for their hard work while asking for more.

The president also will field questions from conservatives when radio host Michael Smerconish hosts his show from the White House Thursday. After the show was announced, Mr. Smerconish said on his Twitter feed he recieved 5,000 submissions for questions.

Aides said it was a good outlet for Mr. Obama, who appeared on the show several times during the campaign.

Also part of the push, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will hold a roundtable at a Chicago hospital Thursday.

But liberal groups scared about media reports the White House is sending mixed signals on whether the health care measure Mr. Obama signs “must include” a public insurance option also are mobilizing.

Pro-public option lawmakers raised more than $150,000 in 24 hours through progressive fundraising channels that called the lawmakers gutsy enough to stand up to “pressure from their own party bosses.”

“This is an urgent, all-hands-on-deck moment,” MoveOn told members when announcing an “emergency” rally for the public option Thursday near the offices of the Democratic National Committee while Mr. Obama hosts his event.

Organized efforts to push the public option were popping up at Democratic town halls in Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico and Florida.

Meanwhile, the White House disputed a report that Mr. Obama has given up on winning Republican votes on the health care bill. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that was “absolutely not” accurate and maintained Wednesday there is 80 percent congressional agreement on the plan’s elements and they will seek progress on the rest.

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