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Pelosi calls for liberal activists to help keep Democrats in majority

President Obama and other Democratic leaders appealed to a gathering of prominent liberal activists Saturday, seeking to win back a disenchanted constituency that appears uninterested in helping the party avoid large losses in November's midterm elections.

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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 24, 2010; 2:23 PM

LAS VEGAS -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stepped into a convention of liberal activists here Saturday with a blunt appeal: The gates to a progressive agenda have opened under Democratic control, she said, and they will close if Republicans seize power in the fall midterm elections.

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"The leverage has changed," Pelosi said, citing the passage of health care and financial regulatory reform. "This doesn't happen in a Republican Congress. . . . Understand what is at risk when we go into these elections 100 days from tomorrow."

Pelosi, evoking the George W. Bush administration as a sort of boogeyman, tried to rally her party's liberal base during an appearance before the 2,100 progressives gathered at the annual Netroots Nation convention. "We have news" for Republicans, Pelosi said. "We're not going back. We are going forward, and we need your help to do so."

Some liberal leaders here have voiced frustration, even anger, that despite big Democratic congressional majorities, the Obama administration and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have sought moderation and bipartisanship on such issues as health care. Still, Pelosi was enthusiastically embraced by this audience, as was President Obama, who appeared with a surprise video speech.

"In ways large and small, we've begun to deliver on the change we fought so hard for," Obama said, noting that he is working to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to end the combat mission in Iraq.

"What I'm asking you is to keep making your voices heard, to keep holding me accountable, to keep up the fight," Obama said. "Change is hard, but if we've learned anything these past 18 months, it's that change is possible. . . . Let's finish what we've started."

The president's video included edited clips of MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow reporting news of each of his accomplishments in office, from health care to hate crimes to student loans. "The last time any president did this much in office, booze was illegal," Maddow deadpanned in the video.

Pelosi spoke about "Making It in America," the Democrats' manufacturing agenda that she said would roll out in coming weeks to help restore and create industrial jobs. "Jobs, jobs, jobs is very important, but we have to get it done," Pelosi said. "People have to see the difference between what the Republicans want to do about this -- nothing -- and what we are advocating."

Pelosi, who appeared a few hours before Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) was scheduled to be onstage, took several pointed jabs at the Senate for watering down, and in some cases holding up indefinitely, progressive legislation such as an energy bill.

"This is not an issue that the Senate can walk away from," she said of energy. "We're going to either lead in that or we're going to be left behind. We must act upon this. . . . Time is running out."


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