- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2009

President Obama and the Democrats are toughening their tone as public doubts grow over the economic stimulus plan, aggressively attacking Republicans in local ads and warning of the dire consequences if it fails.

As Democratic leaders were struggling to whittle the Senate’s $885 billion version, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was reminding Republicans what “the American people voted for” in an effort to boost support for the administration’s plan and break the legislative impasse.

“There are some in Washington who still haven’t gotten the message. Maybe they don’t understand that the American people voted for and want change now, not tomorrow,” Mr. Biden said at a chilly train station rally in Laurel, Md., with Democratic officials to promote the kind of infrastructure transportation projects the stimulus would finance to create jobs.

The White House and the Democratic campaign committees are mounting what strategists say is a stepped-up lobbying drive to overcome strong Republican opposition, including radio attack ads against Republican opponents and a grassroots appeals, written by Mr. Obama, to 13 million of his campaign supporters.

Democratic members of Congress are promoting the stimulus in their states and districts with detailed lists of how much money each state would reap from the plan’s $500 billion in new spending. Democratic governors and mayors are promoting the bill at town hall meetings, campaign-style rallies and other events, joined by an armada of allies from labor unions and other political activist groups.

“There are serious doubts about any stimulus package. The country is split between increased government spending versus tax cuts. There is not a high confidence level in government and not a high confidence level that anything will seriously work,” independent pollster John Zogby told The Washington Times.

“I mean, right now, the honeymoon for Obama is over sooner than anyone thought,” he said.

The Gallup Poll reported this week that at least 54 percent of Americans had major reservations about the bill, with 37 percent saying the big spending stimulus bill should pass but “with major changes” and 17 percent saying it should be rejected outright. A Rasmussen poll Wednesday reported that public opposition to the Democrats’ recovery plan had risen from 34 percent two weeks ago to 43 percent this week.

In the face of softening support, Mr. Obama began a series of national network and cable interviews Wednesday night to promote “the urgent need for an economic recovery plan” and a survey of Democratic Party committees and officials on Capitol Hill showed that all of them were in a much more aggressive campaign posture to fight for the stimulus bill’s enactment.

At the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), officials are running radio attack ads in morning drive time in at least 28 Republican congressional districts that are either considered vulnerable next year or are held by some of the Republican Party’s fiercest opponents of the stimulus plan.

In a typical “Putting Families First” ad, the DCCC attacks House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, saying, “Did you know Congressman Eric Cantor voted to bail out big banks, but opposed tax breaks for 95 percent of American workers? Times are tough, tell [Mr. Cantor] to put families first.”

This campaign is “only the first step. We will be continuing to go district by district to hold those Republicans accountable who continue to vote against their constituents in these hard economic times,” said DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer.

The House Democrats’ campaign arm also is targeting appeals to its own e-mail list of three million voters and through nearly 100,000 telephone calls.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) has been busy, too, on behalf of Mr. Obama’s proposal which will mean hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out states mired in debt, provide safety net assistance for workers and families, and billions to repair or rebuild roads, bridges, rail lines, schools and other infrastructure projects.

“There have been public events in the states to push for the stimulus. Governors are traveling to Washington to meet with their congressional delegation to encourage support for the plan,” said Brian Namey, spokesman for the DGA.

The Democratic National Committee, now chaired by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, also is organizing what it calls “economic recovery house meetings” in neighborhoods across the country where people can gather to watch a video that promotes Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan and discuss it.

“Don’t worry if you’ve never hosted a house meeting before - we’ll make sure you have everything you need to make it a success,” the DNC message assured its supporters.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.



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