How the Obama Administration will use their grass roots activists

When you've got 10 million email addresses and a data base on 3 million donors, you'd be crazy as a politician not to find a use for such a wealth of ready made assistance to pressure Congress to pass your program.

And that's apparently just what the Obama administration intends to do. This from Ceci Connally of the Washington Post:

Former senator Thomas A. Daschle, Obama's point person on health care, launched an effort to create political momentum yesterday in a conference call with 1,000 invited supporters culled from 10,000 who had expressed interest in health issues, promising it would be the first of many opportunities for Americans to weigh in.

The health-care mobilization taking shape before Obama even takes office will include online videos, blogs and

e-mail alerts as well as traditional public forums. Already, several thousand people have posted comments on health on the Obama transition Web site.

"We'll have some exciting news about town halls, we'll have some outreach efforts in December," Daschle said during the call. And tomorrow, when he appears at a health-care summit with Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) in Denver, Daschle said, "we'll be making some announcements there."

It is the first attempt by the Obama team to harness its vast and sophisticated grass-roots network to shape public policy. Although the president-elect is a long way from crafting actual legislation, he promised during the campaign to make the twin challenge of controlling health-care costs and expanding coverage a top priority in his first term.

There is no doubt that Obama has revolutionized grass roots politics. The GOP will be years catching up - if the RNC can ever overcome its aversion to the internet. Hopeful signs that the national party is now taking the problem seriously means that it will, in fact, be addressed.

But that really doesn't solve the problem because what Obama has that the GOP has no chance of developing at the moment is a mass movement of fervent acolytes who believe in him. In other words, it isn't necessarily the numbers that are the problem for the GOP but rather the enthusiasm of Obama's cadres who will be willing to inundate Capitol Hill with emails and telephone calls whenever he wishes to activate them.

Here's the kind of thinking that Republicans should be studying very closely:


Daschle, who is expected to become the next secretary of health and human services, is waging the outreach campaign by marrying old-fashioned Washington-style lobbying and cutting-edge social-networking technologies. Although he has yet to be formally nominated, he has already met with more than 100 insiders, ranging from union leaders and the seniors group AARP to hospital executives and representatives of corporate America.

"In the last three days I've exchanged three sets of e-mails with him," said Ron Pollack, executive director and vice president of the advocacy group Families USA.

The Obama team, which recruited about 13 million online supporters during the presidential campaign and announced its vice presidential selection via text message, is now moving to apply those tools to the earliest stages of governing.

In addition to email addresses, the Obama campaign has millions of cell phone numbers for text messaging (they announced the Biden selection for Veep via texting). That is a grass roots strike force that could instantly be mobilized to make calls or emails to one or two wavering legislators on a bill that could tip the balance for the administration. GOP online activist Rob Neppell said he doubts if the GOP has more than a couple thousand cell numbers stored somewhere.

You get the picture.

Republicans have a long way to go and not much time to develop even the rudiments of such an organization before 2012. When they can match the Democrats in this area as well as reform some other nuts and bolts activities is the day the party can begin a real comeback.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky