Reuniting with supporters and top-tier donors who fueled his re-election victory, President Barack Obama on Wednesday told a grass-roots group springing out of his campaign that they can play an equally powerful role in helping his ambitious second-term agenda come to fruition.
Addressing the fledgling group Organizing for Action for the first time, Obama sought to temper concerns among Republicans and good-governance groups that questioned whether the group was really seeking to help Democrats recapture the House in 2014.
“I actually just want to govern – at least for a couple of years,” Obama said.
Obama, who hours earlier held a rare meeting with House Republicans aimed at laying the groundwork for compromise, said he senses a genuine desire among Republicans to get things done. Many of those in the opposing party are just as weary of grinding gridlock that has stymied progress on major fiscal issues, he said.
“Members sometimes are scared about making the right decisions,” Obama said, telling the group that they could make the difference in marshaling support that would help lawmakers come to the right decision.
Obama acknowledged that after his 2008 victory, he didn’t do enough to keep supporters engaged. He said his oft-cited observation during last-year’s campaign – that Washington can’t be changed from inside – has always been his belief, and that Organizing for Action can ensure the voices of those who elected him are heard now that the election is over and the tough work of policymaking has resumed.
About 75 supporters and donors, including Google chairman Eric Schmidt, packed a wood-paneled restaurant at a ritzy hotel blocks from the White House to hear Obama, the headliner for the two-day summit. Unlike most of his campaign and White House events, the president spoke without a teleprompter. After Obama made brief remarks, reporters were escorted out as Obama mingled and took questions from attendees.
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