A day after the White House dismissed protesters at town-hall events as people sent from opposition groups in Washington, the administration’s political wing began mobilizing millions of its own supporters.
“We’ve got to get out there,” President Obama said in an e-mail message sent Wednesday to the more than 13 million supporters of his campaign group, Organizing for America.
“These canvasses, town halls and gatherings only make a difference if you turn up to knock on doors, share your views and show your support,” he said. “So here’s what I need from you: Can you commit to join at least one event in your community this month?”
Supporters who go to the group’s Web site are asked to enter their names, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers.
The coordinated effort from Washington to produce grass-roots action comes one day after the White House and Democrats in Washington denounced protesters at health care town hall forums across the country as the work of the Republican Party and its lobbyist allies.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs contended again Wednesday there was a lot of “manufactured anger” in the protests, which have erupted at a string of gatherings called by congressional Democrats in their districts.
Republican and conservative groups have ridiculed the idea that there is any high-level organization behind the protests, beyond publicizing when and where town hall forums are taking place.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies were doing “what psychologists call ‘projection.’ ”
“The other team does bus people in,” he said. “If they wanted to get 100 people to a rally, they have to pay them.”
The Democratic National Committee released a video aimed at discrediting the loud and sometimes angry protests that have popped up around the country.
“This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they’ve called out the mob,” says the video, which shows footage of protesters in Austin, Texas, surrounding Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat, on Saturday, and chanting “just say no” repeatedly.
DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse accused “Republican operatives” of busing in volunteers to the events. And Democratic strategist Donna Brazile told The Washington Times she thinks the protesters are being paid.
“They’re renting organizers,” she said. “The left has done it. Now they’re doing it. This is not some spontaneous outbreak of emotion.”
Mr. Norquist said that none of the major business or industry groups that might have played a role in stirring up grass-roots opposition has come out against the president’s plan, as the White House has worked hard to keep all the major industry stakeholders at the table.
“They cowed K Street, but forgot about Main Street,” Mr. Norquist said. “And Main Street is angry, and Main Street doesn’t like this.”
John Goodman, president of the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis, said industry groups are “caving in, selling out.”
“I can’t think of a single industry group that is not ready to cut a [deal] with Obama tomorrow,” he said. “So this is real grass roots.”
Mr. Obama spoke Wednesday at an event in Elkhart County, Ind., offering an optimistic message about the economy but ignoring the town hall protests.
“I believe our ability to recover and to prosper as a nation depends on what happens in communities just like this one,” Mr. Obama said, announcing a $39 million grant for two automobile plants in Elkhart that will fund the building of 400 fuel-efficient trucks.
Despite sagging polls and rising protests, Mr. Obama also guaranteed the passage of health care reform this year.
“I promise you: We will pass reform by the end of this year because the American people need it,” he said.