- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

First it was slipping a favorite phrase from the presidential campaign into speeches on health care as President Obama said “Yes we can,” get it done this year.

Then he decried old Washington thinking and subscribers to the White House e-mail list started hearing more and more from Mr. Obama, including a warning there will be “an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics” in the coming days as Congress battles over health care.

If it sounds familiar, it is. He used similar language in 2008 as he battled first a tough primary rival and then Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday hosted two town halls in swing states he turned from red to blue last fall, sharpening his strategy of using political campaign tactics in hopes of winning the fight on health care.

It was just like the campaign trail, except the president was battling lawmakers from his own party and falling poll numbers instead of a Republican rival.

“This is about the future,” Mr. Obama said during a town hall meeting at a high school in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, before heading to Southwestern Virginia for another campaign-style event to pitch his health care plan.

“I want our children and our grandchildren to look back and say this is when we decided to take the politics out of it and start doing something for the future of this country,” he said.

It sounds a lot like his promise of a “new direction” for future generations when he spoke in June 2008 as a candidate, telling Minnesota voters he was certain that years later, “We will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment” when change began.

Last week in Ohio, Mr. Obama returned to a frequent example from the campaign trail, saying the anniversary of the moon landing showcases how Americans can achieve difficult things.

As he concluded the Ohio event he urged voters, “Stay on your member of Congress … keep up the heat.”

Just like the rallies last year, as Mr. Obama arrived for the Raleigh town hall Wednesday he was met with nearly one minute of sustained cheering, and was interrupted by applause 91 times over 65 minutes.

As Mr. Obama decried the “noise and fussing and fighting” of Washington and his desire to connect with everyday people, his cadence and mannerisms were no different from when he was asking for votes. He also employed his tactic of mocking critics and even poking fun at himself.

The president recalled a story he’s been telling lately about a woman who blasted government-run health plans, but added, “Don’t touch my Medicare,” chuckling as he told the tale.

The White House e-mail list started May 13 when Mr. Obama announced that he’d met with House Democrats “and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.” Subscribers received three notes in June, and five e-mails in July.

That’s in addition to the Organizing for America messages the 13 million subscribers to the Obama campaign receive.

The most recent was on Wednesday, from OFA Executive Director Mitch Stewart, asking supporters to give $1 per day until a health care bill passes. He said the money would be used to train volunteers and hire organizers nationally for events and for putting ads on the air.

Republicans who spent more than a year observing Mr. Obama aren’t surprised he’s back in action.

“President Obama is more comfortable campaigning than governing,” said Alex Conant, a Republican Party consultant who watched the Democrat’s every speech in 2008 while working for the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Conant said Mr. Obama seems to be having trouble “translating his vague campaign slogans and promises into workable government policy.”

Republican Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina noted that Mr. Obama’s campaign tactics seem out of sorts since conservative Democrats have been one of the roadblocks to passing a bill. Mr. McHenry said instead of trying to convince those lawmakers, the president rallied “his enthusiastic base” in Raleigh, a city where Mr. Obama remains popular.

“If he were going to a moderate or undecided area of North Carolina that would say more about his willingness to reach out,” the Republican said, adding Mr. Obama is “more popular than his proposals.”


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