Obama back to campaigning

President Barack Obama and his political operation will return to campaign mode in the biggest way since taking office in the next couple weeks. The effort, which has been carefully leaked to several new sources, will likely answer several important questions about Obama's popularity and his ability to utilize the political following he cultivated during the campaign to accomplish his policy goals.

Obama will use his massive email list for the first time this week, writes the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, in an effort to lobby members of Congress to pass his $3.55 trillion budget. Obama's political arm, Organizing for America (OFA), will use the email list and its website to provide ways to contact their representatives. David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager who is now leading OFA, told the Post that it's the "first major engagement" of the email list.

Obama will also test his record setting fundraising prowess on March 25 at an Democratic National Committee fundraiser, Bloomberg reports. The president will headline an event at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., where tickets will range from $100 to $2,500 each.

The OFA campaign and the DNC fundraiser raises the following questions as Obama closes in on two months in office:

How popular is Obama? Obama's job approval numbers remain in the high 50s and low 60s though several pundits, including Washington Dean David Broder, have declared his honeymoon over. But Obama is likely still very popular among Democrats (read: donors), so he will likely still be a big draw at the fundraiser.

Will Obama fans be as excited about policy as they were about politics? To the general electorate, campaign politics are exciting, budget proposals...not so much. Will the members of Obama's email list and grassroots organization be jazzed about calling their representatives in Congress about the budget? Obama pal Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) ran in 2006 on a similar message as Obama's ("Together we can") and came out of nowhere to win based, in large part, on his online grassroots operation. Like Obama, Patrick cultivated a large email list that he then intended to use to influence the legislature to pass his proposals. Once in office, though, Patrick committed a few missteps and that email list proved less powerful than anticipated. Will the same happen to Obama?

How is the recession affecting fundraising? Simply put, if Obama can't raise serious dough right now, who can? Expect potential House and Senate challengers to be watching the DNC's haul. If the numbers are paltry, they may be less inclined to make run.

jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com

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