WASHINGTON – The name says it all: Committee to Redefeat the President (search).
Tapping into the animosity many Democrats feel toward President Bush, and crystallized by the disputed 2000 election, a political action committee is using a mix of marketing tools, cell phones and humor to contact unregistered households in core Democratic areas of swing states.
The goal: Persuade enough people to register and then vote a Democratic ticket to unseat Bush.
"What we want to do is harness activities in regions that are highly competitive and decided by a small margin," said Democratic activist David Lytel, head of the Committee to Redefeat the President.
Although the group's name is a jab at the fact that Bush didn't win the popular vote in 2000 — and the Supreme Court had the final say — its goal is serious. Lytel, an adviser in the first Clinton administration, wants 1 million Democrats signed up to vote in November, and hopes to get 20,000 volunteers to register 50 Democrats each.
The field of unregistered voters is much larger than Lytel's goal. Almost 36 percent of eligible voters — or nearly 73 million people — were unregistered in 2000, according to the Census Bureau.
About 2,000 people interested in helping are on the group's mailing list, and the effort is spreading by word of mouth and through the committee's Internet site, which tempers political desire with humor. On the site, an animated send-up of Bush wonders aloud if "redefeat" is a word and admits he wouldn't mind losing because he'd then have more time to play in celebrity golf tournaments.
The Bush-Cheney campaign sees the group's actions as "more negative, bitter partisanship," said spokesman Scott Stanzel. "So far we haven't seen much in the way of positive strategy from the president's opponents," he said Tuesday.
For the past few weeks, between 40 and 100 volunteers have gathered for "Tuesday Night Democratic Clubs" at a Washington bar, contacting about 1,000 unregistered households in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County, which includes the city of Wilkes-Barre. Through letters and calls on their own cell phones, volunteers are encouraging would-be voters to register for their state's April 27 primary, and offering to fill out registration forms or send forms to their homes.
Many of the 30 people that volunteer Carol Hausman called didn't know about Pennsylvania's primary. Her political involvement usually is limited to donating money to candidates, but she wants Bush out of office — and she wants to help make it happen.
"I care more this year than any other time I can remember," said Hausman, 70, of Washington.
Voter registration has always been important to volunteer J.E. McNeil, this year even more so.
"I'm especially concerned when people are elected by such squeaky margins," said McNeil, 52, of Washington.
The group is concentrating solely on Democratic strongholds in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two swing states that loom large in November. Bush edged out Democrat Al Gore in Ohio, which offers 20 electoral votes, while Gore captured Pennsylvania, which this year has 21 electoral votes.