WASHINGTON -- His second-term agenda on the line, President Barack Obama is urging his most ardent supporters to mount a summertime show of support that can rival any opposition Obama and Democrats may face from constituents next month.
Obama spoke on Monday to a summit of Organizing for Action, a group formed from the president's 2012 re-election campaign with the express goal of backing his policy priorities.
The Democratic Party's other most prominent figures, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, joined him in asking supporters for help in promoting the party's legislative goals.
"One of our challenges . . . is how do we keep people involved? Naturally, it's not going to be as full of razzmatazz as a campaign," Obama said, pointing to the intense fundraising and mobilization before Election Day. "Nonetheless, in some ways this stuff is more important."
Lawmakers in barely a week will fan out across the country, returning to their home districts for the annual summer break. At town hall meetings and picnics and public events, they'll hear firsthand from constituents -- most of whom, polls show, have had it with Washington and incessant partisan fighting.
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With a tough path ahead for Obama's major goals -- including an immigration overhaul, the economy and the rollout of his health care law -- his supporters want to ensure that lawmakers of both parties return to Washington with a mandate to work with Obama. So, OFA, with a presidential assist, is seeking to get activists energized and ready to speak up.
"We're calling it Action August, and there will be plenty of ways to get involved," OFA executive director Jon Carson wrote in an email to supporters. "The more people who step up and get involved, the more likely we'll all be heard."
But the proactive rallying of the party faithful may also be an attempt to pre-empt what Democrats anticipate will be a concerted effort by conservatives to show lawmakers they want Obama's agenda stopped in its tracks -- and that they'll punish those who go along with his proposals in the next election.
After all, it was during the same period in Obama's first term when a burgeoning tea party, incensed by Obama's health care proposals, showed up in full force at town halls in 2009.
A year later, Obama's party lost control of the House and hemorrhaged seats in the Senate, dealing a major blow to Obama's agenda in what the president described as a "shellacking."
Republicans said Obama's time would be better spent finding a way to work with Congress rather than reverting to campaign tactics to knock Republicans. They questioned his support for OFA, which competes with the Democratic Party for fundraising dollars.
"The president needs help spinning Americans during August recess because his speeches haven't started hiring," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "And once again the president is putting himself and his legacy over the future of the Democrat Party."