With the same zeal and energy that helped get President Obama elected in November, supporters of health care reform are using the same approach when it comes to health care reform. From The Washington Post:
The initiative began Wednesday with a rally at a labor hall in Phoenix that featured the Obama sunrise logo and placards that became fixtures of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Organizing for America, a nationwide group of Obama supporters run by the Democratic National Committee, also brought along a colorful bus featuring the slogan, "Health Insurance Reform Now: Let's Get it Done." The vehicle is on an 11-city tour advocating for health-care reform.
"We think that change happens with neighbors talking to neighbors, and these rallies reflect that," said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan. "That's how we won the campaign in the fall, with grass-roots organizing, and that's what we will see in these events going forward."
But the effort also underscores the unexpected difficulties faced by Obama and his allies in trying to push a health reform plan through Congress in the face of concerted Republican opposition and growing voter unease. Conservative activists have dominated the public debate in recent weeks with dire warnings and noisy disruptions at town hall meetings, while national polls show declining support for Obama's ambitious plan to widen health insurance coverage.
The DNC kickoff rally in Phoenix attracted about 1,200 reform supporters, but a raucous meeting on the other side of town hosted by Obama's former presidential campaign rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) attracted hundreds more — most of whom were loudly opposed to Democratic reform proposals.
"The grass-roots anger over the spending and the size of the health-care grab by Obama is real, and all these staged rallies are not going to change that," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative Washington-based group that is rallying opposition to Obama's reform plans. "I think it's an acknowledgment that they're in trouble."
Katie Wright, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said that "no amount of rallies can hide the fact that the Democrats' government-run plan will raise costs, increase the deficit and put bureaucrats in charge of making personal health-care decisions."
Democrats and health reform advocates say the GOP contentions are false, and they hope to catch lawmakers' attention before they return to Washington after Labor Day. The House and Senate will resume wrangling over five competing health reform bills under consideration in Congress, all but one of which include a proposed public insurance option to compete with private insurers. The estimated cost of overall reform has hovered around $1 trillion over 10 years, though Obama has pledged to make the plan "budget neutral" through a combination of cuts and new revenue.
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Can those in favor of health care reform whip up the same fervor and grab the same attention as those who oppose it?