The emerging strategy represents a more combative approach than the one taken during Obama’s first term, when the White House frequently worked with congressional leaders to try to compromise. This time, Obama has laid out the measures he wants Congress to pass and is selling them.
The approach underscores the limits of Obama’s influence on Capitol Hill, where he must rely on the votes of Democrats from states that backed Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential race and where many voters are hostile to his progressive second-term agenda.
“Write your congressman,” Biden said during an online forum Thursday in a refrain that is likely to be sounded repeatedly in coming weeks. “For or against, write your congressman.”
The White House is entrusting key legislative work to senior Senate Democrats while Obama and Biden begin to crisscross the country showcasing the president’s gun proposals, which include background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons.
Obama is mobilizing millions of volunteers and supporters through the newly-branded Organizing for Action, his former campaign committee that will raise money and run grass-roots campaigns to pressure wavering lawmakers .
Part of the goal is to demonstrate support for gun-control measures in states such as West Virginia, North Dakota or Louisiana, where Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III, Heidi Heitkamp and Mary Landrieu, respectively, face strong pressure to side with pro-gun groups.
Plans are also underway for Obama and Biden to appear with law enforcement officials, clergy members, hunters and military leaders who back their proposals, a White House aide said.
Gun-control supporters said Thursday that they want moderate gun owners to join their coalition.
“We need responsible hunters and sportsmen to step up to this,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said at a news conference with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to formally introduce a bill to ban assault weapons.
With 10 military-style weapons displayed at their side, Durbin added, “They shake their heads when they hear the gun lobby speak for them, saying things which they don’t believe, which is you need a weapon like this to go out and hunt or to go to target practice. We need them to step up. We need their voices as part of this conversation.”
The White House’s gun-centered campaign will begin in earnest on Friday, with Biden traveling to Richmond with Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.) and several Cabinet secretaries to hold a roundtable session focused in part on the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.