Obamabots go back to sleep

Barack Obama's millions of minions who contributed or worked on his presidential campaign were a big question mark going into Obama's presidency.

What to do with all of these supporters?

The Obama team thought that activating them for email campaigns to legislators for important legislation would be easy. In fact, the technical challenges don't go much beyond hitting "send" on a computer (I exaggerate, of course).

But the few times Obama's team has tried to get their network to do any real work, they have been found wanting. They have mad no discernible impact on policy debates to date.

Health care reform would seem a perfect opportunity to rectify that. But apparently, the old Obama spirit that drove many of these people to the polls has disappeared, and Obama's team itself is having trouble organizing.

Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times:

But now, entering a crucial congressional recess month in which Obama's healthcare plan faces stiffened opposition, some members of the network say that the group is still figuring out how to operate. Some also say their work has been slowed by tensions over tactics, disenchantment among some core supporters and an effective GOP resistance.

In Farmington, Mo., Obama backer Craig Hartel wonders why the movement has balked at pressuring centrist Democrats who are wavering on whether to support a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers.

In Chester, Va., Beth Kimbriel often volunteers 40 hours a week to persuade locals to support Obama. But with critics of the healthcare plan so prominently grabbing headlines and spreading what she calls misinformation, Kimbriel finds that "it's difficult to be believed" when she lays out the president's position.

And in Cary, N.C., Murray Silverstone, inspired by the election and eager to pitch in on the healthcare fight, wonders why staffers didn't arrive in his area and begin trying to reconstruct the campaign system until five weeks ago.

"It wasn't clear to us why there was such a delay," said Silverstone, an astronomer who fits in volunteer work amid his research and college teaching.

The early challenges faced by the network, Organizing for America, present problems for the president and his ambitions for overhauling healthcare policy.

Indeed, the Obama people are finding out that there is a big difference between a political campaign and governance - something their master has also failed to figure out. For many Obamabots, it's just not very sexy to work to pass the president's agenda. With such an enormously complex issue as health care reform, there aren't too many people who can be prepared to answer pointed questions from anxious Americans to their satisfaction.

Since they are just getting organized, it is unclear what kind of effect the same kind of grassroots campaign that elected Obama, activated to pass health care - with many fewer volunteers - will have on the ultimate fate of the issue.