Obama Teams Spread Out To Tout Plans
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
Here's the big question that President Obama asked yesterday: can he harness the passions that got him elected and use them to pressure Congress to pass his agenda? The president asked volunteers to spend Saturday knocking on doors, drumming up mass support for his budget.
NPR asked reporters around the country to follow the canvassing. Here's Daniel Zwerdling.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: The president asked volunteers to do two things yesterday.
(Soundbite of door opening)
Ms. JESSICA URBACHER(ph): Hi.
Ms. BRENDA GONZALEZ(ph): Hi.
Ms. URBACHER: My name is Jessica, and I'm a volunteer for Organizing for America.
Ms. GONZALEZ: Okay.
Ms. URBACHER: It's basically an extension of the grassroots movement for Barack Obama.
ZWERDLING: First, volunteers like Jessica Urbacher were supposed to ask folks to sign a petition. She'd come knocking on Brenda Gonzalez's door.
Ms. URBACHER: And we're basically out today to get people to sign a pledge saying that they're in support of Obama's plan to rebuild America. Would you be interested in signing the pledge?
ZWERDLING: Gonzalez said she was happy to sign. And the guy who answered his door nearby loved this whole populist campaign. His name is Bernard Scoville(ph). He still has a Kerry/Edwards sticker in his window.
Mr. BERNARD SCOVILLE: To making change, it involves, to a great extent, education. And the more ways you can reach out, including going door to door, the more chance you can have people educated so that we can move forward.
ZWERDLING: And then every canvasser, like Jeanine Tang(ph), was supposed to ask people to take action.
Ms. JEANINE TANG: If you have access to the Internet, we're encouraging people to go to barackobama.com and look up the contact info for their representatives and just call them and let them know that you support Barack's plan to invest in energy, health care and education.
ZWERDLING: The strategy might sound simple, but Barack Obama is the first president who's ever launched a mass campaign like this to pass his agenda. As you probably know, the president's election campaign amassed more than 13 million email addresses. They gathered more addresses yesterday.
Unidentified Man: Any information that you guys need to send out to me, just send it to my house.
ZWERDLING: If the president can inspire that base to pressure Congress, it could change the way presidents build support, and here's what we know about how it's going. We sent station reporters to follow canvassers in four states, from South Carolina to California. They said some volunteers didn't show up, some didn't get clear instructions about what they were supposed to do, others forgot to ask people to contact Congress. They were rusty. The country will know if the president's campaign worked if voters barrage Congress with calls and letters telling them to pass his budget.
Daniel Zwerdling, NPR News.
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