Obama's Grassroots Network Kicks Into High Gear

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>On a conference call with reporters and local organizers today, the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America laid out its plans for this Saturday's "Day of Action." Local organizers are planning a hundred events across the country to register new voters for the 2010 midterms and to re-energize those who cast their first votes in the 2008 presidential election.

Mitch Stewart, national director of OFA, described the coordinated effort as "just the beginning of what will be an ongoing effort across the country." One of the biggest challenges for Democratic organizers leading into midterms will be to generate the kind of voter turnout and enthusiasm that the Obama campaign drummed up in 2008. Stewart said that in many regions, the emphasis will be on pledge cards (documents that already registered voters sign to commit to voting in November) rather than on voter registration.

"We believe the difference between winning and losing is really going to be based on the margins -- two or three percentage points," Stewart said. "If first-time 2008 voters increase participation by 2 or 3 percent ... that'll be the difference between winning and losing for Congress and statewide candidates who are allies of the president."

Community organizers on the call described Saturday plans for an Afro-Fest (an African American cultural festival in a park) in Milwaukee, a farmer's market in Salt Lake City, and a phone bank in Manhattan.

In response to a question about what it was like to talk to voters now compared to two years ago, the organizers said that they haven't seen on-the-ground confirmation of press reports that Americans are disillusioned with Obama.

"I think in talking to people, especially first time 2008 voters," said Ling Tsou, a New York City organizer, "in general, people are still feeling very positive about the president. I have not really gotten a lot of pushback."

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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