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The Nation

March 15, 2011

Obama's team seeks new ways to fire up his base

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Some Democrats say they may need luck to replicate the passionate turnout of Obama's first campaign. The often-stated claim that voters would embrace the health care law once it began taking effect has proven mostly untrue. But another year may change that, these Democrats say.

For now, the Obama team is unveiling few new ideas specifically keyed to firing up core constituencies. A recent White House conference call urged young voters to hold roundtables, which administration officials may attend, to discuss priorities and offer feedback.

Beyond that, Obama eventually plans large rallies similar to those in 2008. They create showy spectacles that excite young voters, but they also serve a fundraising role. People who enter the stadiums or buy Obama T-shirts are asked to provide their names and contact information, which are used later to request donations and volunteer activities.

Republicans predict Obama will easily exceed the record $750 million he raised for the 2008 race, even without a competitive Democratic primary.

When it comes to energizing the Democratic base and turning out the vote, however, Obama will sorely miss one person: George W. Bush. His unpopularity helped cripple GOP nominee John McCain's efforts to overtake Obama in 2008.

A few days before the election, Bush's disapproval rating hit a record 70 percent in the Pew Research Center survey. A declining number of likely voters, meanwhile, felt McCain would take the country in a different direction.

Whatever problems the eventual 2012 Republican nominee may have, Bush will be a distant memory. Obama will have to find a new punching bag, and new incentives, to fire up his base.

___

Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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