Democrats are emailing thousands of people who backed Barack Obama last year in two GOP-controlled Pennsylvania congressional districts, asking them to protest their representatives' recent "no" votes on health care reform legislation.
The email urges supporters to drop by the offices of Republican Reps. Jim Gerlach, of Chester County, and Charlie Dent, of Lehigh County, to complain in person. Both representatives voted against the health overhaul bill on Nov. 7.
Organizing for America, the Obama campaign arm of the Democratic National Committee, is targeting the 32 Republican House members in districts carried by Obama who also voted against the reform bill, including Gerlach and Dent.
"Democracy is not a spectator sport. And right now, we need you in the game," Mitch Stewart, the director of OFA, wrote in the email. Representatives "must understand that caving to the well-heeled lobbyists in Washington, D.C. has consequences at the ballot box back home," the email says.
Gerlach's 6th District went for Obama with 58 percent of the vote in 2008, and the Democratic presidential candidate carried Dent's 15th District with 56 percent of the vote.
Democrats also are targeting both districts in the 2010 midterm elections. Gerlach's seat will be open, as he is running for the GOP nomination for governor instead of reelection to Congress. Dent, who was first elected in 2004, is viewed as potentially vulnerable to challenge by the Democrats.
OFA has at its disposal an email list of 13 million names of past Obama supporters who, strategists hope, can be mobilized quickly to put grassroots muscle behind the president's policy goals. During the health care debate, the group says it has conducted 20,000 events in all 435 congressional districts across the nation, including a "day of action" in October that inspired 315,000 phone calls to Capitol Hill.
Michael Czin, a spokesman for the DNC declined to say how many emails were sent in Pennsylvania. They went out last Thursday, and recipients are encouraged to visit the two congressmen through Wednesday.
It has been an open question whether people who voted and volunteered for Obama will come out to campaign for specific legislation now that he is in office.
Gerlach and Dent don't sound as if they're likely to repent on their health-care votes no matter how much foot traffic they get from Obama fans. Gerlach is not seeking reelection to the seat he has held since 2003, and is running for governor in next year's Republican primary instead.
"It's great that the Democrats are using their resources to let voters know that I opposed a bill that will raise taxes and cost workers their jobs without doing anything to curb the rising cost of health care," Gerlach said in a statement. "It just shows how out of touch they are with the American people."
Indeed, only one Republican in the House voted for the health-care bill, and no others have come forward to say they'll change their minds when a final version comes back for a roll call.
"The congressman is very aware that this is a district with diverse opinions," said Dent spokesman Greg Bortz. "He continues to vote what he thinks is representative of the majority of his district, and what he views as good for the country."