GOP, Dems Try to Fire Up Supporters at Dueling Blogger Conferences in Vegas

What happens in Vegas shouldn't stay in Vegas.

That's the message Republicans and Democrats sought to convey Saturday at dueling conferences for bloggers.

Hundreds of writers, lawmakers and activists are in Sin City this weekend for the two-day conservative RightOnline conference that began Friday and the four-day liberal Netroots Nation conference that started Thursday.

What began as a forum on effective online activism quickly turned into a rallying cry on each side meant to fire up the base ahead of November's congressional elections.

President Obama made a video appearance at the annual Netroots Nation convention, urging liberal activists and bloggers to "keep up the fight" to bring change to Washington.

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The president acknowledged that some in the party's left wing have been unhappy with the pace of change. Liberals have been disenchanted on issues from the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the failure to create a government-run insurance option in the health care overhaul.

The president said in the brief video that the combat mission in Iraq will end in August.

It's a tough election year for Democrats, but Obama warned about returning to Republican policies "that got us into the mess."

He says "change is hard," and he urged hundreds of activists and bloggers in the audience to "keep making your voices heard."

At the RightOnline conference, sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, nearly 1,100 spirited activists packed a ballroom at the Venetian Hotel to hear fiery speeches that invoked the message of the conservative Tea Party Movement: limited government, fiscal restraint and a "return to the Constitution."

"I have a dream that we're gonna reestablish some balance of power in Washington, D.C., in 2010," conservative radio host Herman Cain said in a speech, alleging that Democrats want to "label you and me as racist because we are patriots. They are desperate to keep the grip around the public's neck."

The conference featured high-profile Republican speakers like Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann and U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle who blasted the policies of the Obama administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who spoke across town at the Netroots conference.

Pelosi introduced Obama's video message and received a standing ovation from most of the people in the cavernous, partly filled auditorium at a Las Vegas casino.

In his remarks, the president said the combat mission in Iraq would soon end, and that the administration is working to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays and close the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

"In ways large and small we've begun to deliver on the change you fought so hard for," Obama said.

"We cant afford to slide backward. And that's the choice America faces this November," he added. "Keep up the fight."

Hundreds of activists and bloggers applauded warmly after the video ended, but some were not appeased.

The video "doesn't really change my views. I'm still waiting for action," said Matthew Filipowicz, 33, a cartoonist and comedian from Chicago. "Words only do so much."

Obama's video was introduced by Pelosi, who received a standing ovation from most of the people in the cavernous, partly filled auditorium at a Las Vegas casino.

In her remarks, Pelosi referred to "differences of opinions," and like Obama ticked off legislative victories like the health care overhaul and broad reform of the U.S. banking and financial sector.

Echoing the president, she asked the crowd to recognize what's been achieved in Washington since Obama's election and not let differences cause a political fissure.

The day after the election "we want to have no regrets," Pelosi said.

When asked a question about the military policy on gay servicemembers, someone shouted from the audience.

"Your impatience is justified," Pelosi said.

Just two days after Senate Democrats gave up plans to attempt to pass an energy bill that caps greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, Pelosi said "this is not an issue the Senate can walk away from."

The plan was a priority of Obama, who had hoped to add a climate bill to his list of legislative successes.

"We'll welcome whatever the Senate can pass to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Pelosi said. "Sooner or later this has to happen."

Among the other top draws at the Netroots conference are Sen. Al Franken, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as well as ousted Obama administration official Van Jones and dozens of leading liberal bloggers and Democratic organizers.  The conference is the brainchild of Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas and paid for by more than a half dozen unions as well as Democratic organizations.

The conversations in each of the venues has been very different. At Netroots Nation, liberal bloggers weighed policy issues like curbing Wall Street power and expanding social justice, education, broadband and Miranda rights. They also expressed frustration that Obama's messages of hope and change had been weighted down by a Democratic majority unwilling to take big risks.

They also offered their usual mockery of the movement being toasted at the conference across town -- Tea Partiers. At RightOnline, conservative bloggers feted their own better-late-than-never arrival to online activism while reveling in the renewed energy provided by the Tea Party groups who've grown in momentum as Washington wallows.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.