The push by the progressive groups began Thursday with rallies outside the offices of five Republican House members in Florida. On Saturday, hundreds of similar events will unfold nationwide in a “national day of action” intended to influence negotiations on a series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect Jan. 1.
Some lawmakers will even be greeted with revelers singing politically themed Christmas carols in the coming weeks, organizers said.
The emerging campaign, involving dozens of national and state-level organizations, will allow thousands of field organizers and volunteers from Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign to continue working on his behalf. At a time when the future of Obama’s campaign committee — and its precious e-mail lists and voter data files — are being decided, the outside groups are trying to replicate the president’s grass-roots success.
“We can’t do that as a campaign — it’s illegal,” said a senior Obama campaign adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to lobbying on Washington legislation. “And we’re not going to just set up another entity without thinking about it. There's a great group of progressives working on it, and it’s a perfect place for our volunteers to be engaged for the month.”
The progressive groups are working in tandem with Obama, who will travel to Hatfield, Pa., on Friday to make the case that tax rates should be increased for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. But there remains ample room for friction between the White House and progressives on the issue of entitlement spending, which Obama has said is in need of reform but which many of his liberal allies want kept off the negotiating table.
There is also potential for tension between the White House and centrist Democratic senators, who will be among the lawmakers whom some liberals plan to target. In the early years of Obama’s first term, several Capitol Hill Democrats bristled when his grass-roots campaign organization — which by then had been moved to the Democratic National Committee — focused on them in an effort to win votes for the Affordable Care Act.
It’s not clear whether the White House will be better insulated this time, because independent groups are doing the targeting.
“This is all about shoring up our champions, making sure our champions are leading on the issue,” said Frank Clemente, who leads Americans for Tax Fairness, a labor-funded group. “This was a decisive issue in the election, and they need to stay strong on this.”
Leading the effort is a coalition of liberal groups called the Action, which pledges on its Web site “to end the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent.” The coalition is staging rallies this weekend in at least 15 states.