- Associated Press - Thursday, June 7, 2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — They are trying to be hopeful, but the Democratic Party’s most passionate voters are struggling to hide their frustration with President Obama.

Republicans may attack the president as a big-government liberal, but many liberals meeting Thursday at Netroots Nation — an annual convention likened to “a giant family reunion for the left” — argue that Mr. Obama hasn’t fought hard enough for progressive priorities on taxes, health care and the economy. Even more problematic for the president is this: With the election just five months away, some are threatening not to donate money or time or even vote in November for the man who overwhelmingly ignited their passions and captured their imaginations four years ago.

“I want to be happy with him,” said Democrat Kristine Vaughan, a 45-year-old school psychologist from Canton, Ohio. “But I am finding that he has succumbed to the corporate influence as much as everyone else. I think he has so much potential to break out of that, but overall he has been a disappointment.”

Ms. Vaughan isn’t sure whether she’ll vote for Mr. Obama a second time and probably won’t donate money as she did during his first campaign. She refuses to support Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but is considering writing in another candidate in protest.

The sentiment is not unique among the 2,700 people gathered on the first day of this three-day convention. More than a dozen liberals interviewed here indicated some level of frustration with the president, despite widespread praise for his recent decision to support gay marriage and ongoing push to scale back military action in the Middle East.

Most plan on voting for Mr. Obama, but their varying levels of enthusiasm could spell trouble for a president whose 2008 victory was fueled by a massive network of grass-roots volunteers and small-dollar donors. Polls show the president locked in a tight race that’s likely to be decided in several swing states where he scored narrow victories four years ago.

“He’s done a good job, but he could have done a lot better,” said Ed Tracey, 55, of Lebanon, N.H., who heads his local chapter of the group, Drinking Liberally.

Mr. Tracey was one of Mr. Obama’s many small-dollar donors four years ago, but his dissatisfaction has affected his generosity: “I decided that unless I thought he really needed it, I wouldn’t contribute,” he said.

Despite the criticism, polling suggests Republicans may face a larger enthusiasm gap than Democrats.

In late May, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 93 percent of Obama voters said they are enthusiastic about voting for him, including 51 percent who were very enthusiastic. For Romney supporters, 75 percent were enthusiastic, and just 26 percent were very enthusiastic.

Many say Mr. Obama is not fighting hard enough for tax increases on the wealthy to help close the federal deficit.

“I look forward to him fighting much harder,” said Arshad Hasan, executive director of Democracy for America, a group founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

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