“These are a bunch of really talented staffers who as of last week were unemployed,” said a person familiar with the planning.
The effort comes as Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) have signaled a willingness to compromise ahead of a new round of negotiations over taxes and spending that will start at the White House on Friday.
It also offers the first sign that Democrats see another chance to try to turn the president’s vaunted political apparatus into a more permanent grass-roots movement. A similar attempt after Obama’s 2008 victory produced mixed results.
The plan calls for the former campaign organizers to orchestrate protests in front of lawmakers’ offices and set up phone banks to call constituents, among other things, according to people familiar with the evolving strategy.
The effort will focus on GOP lawmakers from multiple states — including Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia — that are home to Republican leaders or members who are considered moveable on taxes. It also involves a new Web site, theaction.org, which will serve as a hub for the tax fight and future campaigns.
The plan reflects the post-election confidence that Obama has displayed in recent days — a sense of strength that was nonexistent the last time he tried to strike a deal with GOP leaders in the ill-fated summer of 2011. At a Wednesday news conference and in a string of meetings with liberal allies and corporate executives, Obama has said that he finally has the bargaining upper hand that eluded him last year, when talks over a possible “grand bargain” to fix the country’s debt problems broke down in what was a low point in his presidency.
“The election is over. The campaign is not over,” Obama told union presidents and liberal group leaders gathered in the Roosevelt Room for a Tuesday meeting, according to several people familiar with the conversation.
Obama assured allies who are worried about potential spending cuts that he will remain true to their shared “North Star.” And where last time he considered the talks a delicate, Washington-centric negotiation between himself and Boehner, this time he encouraged his friends in organized labor and other liberal groups to put the squeeze on Republicans — particularly on his push to let George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy expire at year’s end while extending them for income under $250,000.
The tax fight, set to unfold during the lame-duck session of Congress that will begin next week, marks an area of total agreement between Obama and his allies as the president and GOP leaders try to avert the “fiscal cliff” — a collection of deep spending cuts and expiring tax breaks that stem from last year’s negotiations and could hobble the economy next year.