Like GOP, Obama taking aim at Iowa, NH, Nevada

By Charles Babington

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 6 2011 3:01 p.m. MDT

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another possible GOP presidential candidate, ripped Obama's foreign policies at a New Hampshire stop. He said that for now, at least, all the Republican contenders should focus on Obama, not each other. Each time a reporter invited him to criticize Romney's health care record, Gingrich replied calmly, "You'll have to ask Governor Romney about that."

Since his 2008 election, Obama has kept at least one paid political staffer in every state on the Democratic Party's payroll. Soon, those offices will expand dramatically in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and a few other early voting states. The Obama campaign will pay some workers, and state Democratic parties will pay others.

The first task, campaign advisers say, is to use phones, email and social media to contact all voters who expressed support for Obama in 2008 and get them to pledge "I'm in" for 2012. Then the campaign will recruit and train volunteers who, in turn, will fan out to neighborhoods, offices and other locations to urge the president's re-election, the advisers say.

In his low-key e-mail announcement Monday, Obama said the re-election campaign begins "with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build."

Jackie Norris, Obama's Iowa director in 2008, said only a few details for the new campaign are in place. She said it will start with "re-engaging the activists for the campaign ahead," and will include "a significant fundraising goal."

"Everyone will be asked to give," Norris said, "in big or small amounts." She said the campaign has learned "to love the $5 donors and use that as a way to invest them in the campaign even further."

Independent groups, which are not supposed to coordinate with the official campaign, will pour resources into the early voting states, too. They have a freer hand to attack Republican candidates while Obama stays away and remains presidential.

One major new outside group will be headed by former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, who are courting deep-pocket donors.

Obama's backers say it will be hard to replicate the 2008 campaign's excitement and energy, when "change" and "hope" were the mottos.

But Iowa labor activist Danny Homan said anti-union legislative fights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other Midwestern states will help motivate the Democrats' base.

"I don't believe people are going to have a hard time getting energized," said Homan, adding that he's eager to work with Obama's team. "This election is going to be about whether there is going to be a middle class in this country."

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