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But Pfeiffer’s talk with Kaili Joy Gray, who blogs at DailyKos as “Angry Mouse,” did not go over well. Activists said they left more irritated than they’d been to begin with, and several said they felt as if he wasn’t listening to their concerns.
“Washington is a hard and frustrating place,” Pfeiffer said. “He’s as frustrated as you are. ... The pace of change exceeded everyone’s patience, including our own.”
An example Pfeiffer gave was that it was not easy for Obama to sign an extension of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy but it was the only compromise that wouldn’t hurt the middle class.
Pfeiffer expressed gratitude that the activists had helped elect Obama and several times hearkened back to the events that excited voters during the 2008 campaign: Obama’s announcement speech in Springfield, Ill., his victory speech after the Iowa caucuses and when he became the first African-American to become a major party nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
“Without a lot of people in this room, Barack Obama would not be president of the United States,” he said.
Gray, reading questions from the audience and from Twitter, said the warm feelings weren’t enough when Obama promised big change.
“A lot of people feel really disappointed,” she said. “We’re all Democrats. ... I’m not going to knock on doors, I’m not going to donate money. Do you need us?”
Pfeiffer nodded: “Absolutely.”
Pfeiffer’s bottom line was that the GOP candidates for president have “a very different vision for this country” than the netroots, and he asked the group to help ensure “the Republican vision for this country does not become reality.”
Pfeiffer defended Obama’s accomplishments, citing health care reform, a fair pay act and the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay service members.
“If someone else is president, all the other things I talked about are all going to go away,” he said. “There is much that has been accomplished in the first two and a half years. There is more to be done.”
But Gray kept at it, asking a question that earned cheers: “What difference does it make if we re-elect him?”
The one time Obama has addressed this crowd was in 2007, when Netroots Nation was held in his hometown of Chicago. It was his 46th birthday, and the crowd regaled Obama twice with song. But he wasn’t their top choice then, either, and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) stole the show and topped early polls of the netroots community.
Gray attempted to get Pfeiffer to promise that Obama would visit the next Netroots Nation gathering in summer 2012.
The president’s schedule is “a bit challenging,” Pfeiffer said, adding he’d talk to Obama about it.
Back at the Obama campaign panel, Berg challenged Bird to explain the president’s fundraising strategy.
Berg said that one day after learning Obama had met with donors at the White House, he got an email from the president asking for $5 donations. In the email, Obama promised he was running “a different kind of campaign, not taking money from fat cats.”
“Which is it?” Berg asked.