Utah's chapter of the Organizing for America Health Care Reform Now effort was the first of two states Tuesday evening to beat the goal of getting 100,000 people to commit to calling their congressional delegation.
Utah actually had commitments from several thousand, said Nikki Norton, director of OFA Utah. "Both we and Montana broke the goal early."
It's the grassroots support — door-to-door and one-on-one phoning — that is credited for Barack Obama's presidential win this past November. Although Utah threw its support behind John McCain, Norton said the support being exhibited by Obama supporters throughout Utah is actually growing, not waning.
"As he said tonight, now is the time to deliver," Norton said as Obama concluded a live Webcast to OFA groups making calls across the country Tuesday evening. "This is a call to mobilize people to call Congress."
In a speech and tone that the Utah group gathered at Utah Democratic headquarters in downtown Salt Lake called "feisty," Obama called for a massive regrouping for the final push for health care reform pending in Congress.
"Even the worst of the five bills now before Congress will give millions of Americans health insurance who don't have it," Obama said. "Even the worst bill now before Congress will prevent insurance companies from excluding people with pre-existing conditions. Even the worst bill is the first chance we've had since Teddy Roosevelt was president to make substantial changes to health care system we can no longer sustain."
Obama, whose campaign slogan was "Yes we can," coined a new phrase Tuesday evening, telling naysayers and pundits who are saying "it hasn't been done in the first nine months, so it can't be done, go grab a mop" and help clean up the mess that his administration inherited.
The phrase caught on with the crowd in New York where he delivered the speech and began chanting "Grab a mop."
"Don't just stand there and say, 'You're not holding the mop right,'" Obama said. "Don't say it's a socialist mop. Be a little ashamed and start helping out a little bit."
Barbara Ballingham already was doing what she could. She had spent the afternoon calling OFA members around the state. Along with the commitment to make a call to Congress, she was "getting a sense of anger and frustration with our own delegation for not doing more to help promote some kind of health care reform."
"I know we're singing to the choir with these calls, but there is a sense of hopelessness that is surprising to me," she said, noting that she herself is among the nearly uninsurable Utahns because of a benign brain tumor.
She has purchased an individual plan, but it comes at about $500 a month and with a $9,000 deductible before it will cover anything at all.
"Tonight we're trying to get the choir to sing," she said. "So I've been doing my best to rally people and tell them now is the time get re-energized, not to sit back and just watch people lose their houses or get buried by medical debt because somebody gets sick. Person after person said either they or someone they know is in that boat."