Sunday, January 20, 2013 3:00 pm
Obama's campaign looks to legislative fights
By KEN THOMASAssociated Press
Throngs of campaign volunteers and staff members gathered Sunday at a Washington hotel on the eve of Obama's Inauguration for a conference that served as both reunion and planning session for the next four years.
Recounting the success of the 2012 campaign, campaign officials vowed to use a new nonprofit called Organizing for Action to marshal support behind Obama's legislative agenda. The arrangement is unprecedented for a sitting president - essentially transforming his re-election campaign into a nonprofit organization to back up his efforts in Congress.
"We know it is time to reform our broken immigration system, and we will get it done this year," said Jon Carson, a former White House official who will serve as OFA's executive director. "We are going to take it to them on reducing gun violence, on climate change. And we are going to take this network and finish some jobs that we started," he said, pointing to the sweeping health care law signed by Obama.
The conference, which took place as Obama was sworn into another term in a private ceremony at the White House, was the first gathering of activists who will form the backbone of the nonprofit group. The organization will be funded by grassroots donors and corporate money and function separately from the Democratic National Committee, the party's political arm.
For many volunteers and staffers, the conference and inaugural festivities also offered a chance to trade war stories and bask in the glow of Obama's re-election. Campaign manager Jim Messina walked onstage to a standing ovation, declaring to the faithful, "I see winners!"
Volunteers were asked to form local chapters of the group and take the organizing skills and technological know-how they learned from the campaign to support Obama's second term. Carson said the organization planned to make its mark quickly, previewing the upcoming fight over gun control in the aftermath of last month's deadly school shooting in Connecticut.
"There are dozens of districts in this country where Republicans have no business being proud of the fact that they're endorsed by the (National Rifle Association). And we will go to those districts, and we will run ads, and we will be on their Facebook pages," he said.
"We will go to those people in their districts who might not be too excited to hear that their member of Congress doesn't think we should pass an assault weapons ban or have background checks for everyone who wants to purchase a gun," Carson said. "We will take every lesson learned and create some new ones."
Campaign officials ticked off a series of numbers to emphasize their accomplishments - 332 electoral votes, the registering of 1.8 million voters and more than 150 million door knocks and phone calls from volunteers. But speaker after speaker said it was more than numbers that re-elected a president.
"We are the most powerful room in America," said Sara El-Amine, the campaign's national training director. "Our legacy is not an email list. It's not a tech tool. It's not an analytics model. Our legacy is you."
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