- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama‘s supporters are eager to take the former community organizer up on his challenge to get to work for the nation, and many are even considering a run for public office.

What’s left of the Democrat’s presidential campaign has not been dwindling away - the 13 million-strong Obama e-mail list has been activated to help wildfire victims in California, to host thousands of parties to discuss the incoming administration, and at least 55,000 people told the campaign in an online survey that Mr. Obama has inspired them to consider political careers on the state or local level.

Meanwhile, Obama fans frustrated with some of his moves are again using his transition Web site to question his decisions.

The continued activity among the most fervent online members of the Obama community suggests that his presidency will remain part of the Internet chatter as Democratic organizations figure out their next move in hopes of influencing his policy decisions.

MoveOn.org’s more than 3 million members also are mobilizing to determine where to focus their group’s efforts in 2009.

Officials said a recent survey showed universal health care remains the top priority, followed by economic recovery and job creation, building a “green” economy to stop climate change and ending the war in Iraq - all goals Mr. Obama has said he shares as urgent.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, whose role remains undefined for the incoming administration, regularly e-mails supporters with updates. Those on the Obama list also still get fundraising requests to help the Democratic National Committee retire its debt.

“You helped build the most powerful and effective grassroots movement in America,” Mr. Plouffe told supporters last week. “Now, you’re helping to define how this movement will support President-elect Obama’s agenda and continue to bring the change we need.”

He said 550,000 people already had completed an extensive Web survey, which asked respondents to indicate their interest in volunteering in their community as part of an Obama organization and asked them to rank their priorities. Of the respondents, “a staggering 10 percent” said they would be interested in running for office.

“This feedback is essential to our next steps, because this movement is fueled by your ideas and your passion,” he wrote in an e-mail, promising that after Mr. Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration, “we should be able to announce a clear plan for the future of this movement.”

The Obama supporters also hosted more than 4,000 “Change is Coming” house parties to talk about the president-elect’s agenda. Mr. Plouffe said Florida hosted 302 events; Pennsylvania had 165; and Ohio had 160.

He also said the survey respondents were “excited to volunteer” and “feel it’s important to help Barack’s administration pass legislation through grassroots support.”

But the same grassroots fans who helped the Democrat win the election plan to hold Mr. Obama accountable for his campaign promises throughout his presidency.

The Obama transition Web site, Change.gov, has opened up a comments section. A staffer told supporters to consider it a spot for “engaging in a two-way conversation on some major issues.”

The invitation sparked nearly 3,000 comments in its first few days, and a major conversation point was about Mr. Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration.

Many gay people wrote on the site that they were devastated by the choice because of Mr. Warren’s views on gay marriage, while others suggested they should save their anger.

“I am so befuddled by the hate here … he is the president to all, especially those who disagree with him,” wrote a commenter using the screen name “bluepsyche.”

But “Clay Steel” said Mr. Obama had made a major mistake, adding, “I did not vote for this!”

Another threatened to withhold support from Mr. Obama in 2012, prompting criticism from many others on the site.

“Although Obama has made many choices that have shocked or disappointed me, he still has my support 100 percent because I know without a doubt that he is the one who will get America out of the mess that we are in,” wrote “Iris B.”

“DanC45” wrote that the selection was “a gesture of objectivity” from the president-elect.

“Rick Warren will only be giving a meaningless invocation … words. We need to look at Obama’s actions,” he wrote.

Peter Daou, who ran Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign Web operation, marveled at the Warren response in a recent blog at Huffington Post.

“For online political operatives and observers, this is a prime example of the truism that the medium can quickly flip from being an asset to a liability (which is a good thing from the perspective of citizen empowerment but often a headache for elected officials, campaigns and organizations),” Mr. Daou wrote.

He said the Obama Internet team is confronted with the site becoming “a sudden rallying point for critics,” but praised it for promoting Change.gov as a place for expressing opinions.

When Mr. Obama returns from a vacation in Hawaii for the holidays, he and his family will move to Washington and he’ll attend to the urgent business of final moves before he takes office Jan. 20.

His team is drafting an economic stimulus and jobs creation plan that could reach $800 billion over two years, and Congress will be readying confirmation hearings for his Cabinet nominees.

Republicans are mapping a strategy for which Obama selections they will target, if any. There are stacks of documents at the ready related to the last Democratic president that may surface in hearings, along with new questions about financial dealings of some of the Cabinet nominees.

Senate Republican sources said the nominees likely to face the most trouble are Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as commerce secretary, though they privately acknowledge that, barring a shocking surprise during hearings, Republicans cannot stop any of the president-elect’s nominees because they don’t have the numbers in Congress.

“Some of Barack Obama’s nominees will have to answer questions about misguided pardons, previous lobbying ties and potential conflicts of interest,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

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