President Obama went out for lunch on Wednesday, meeting a group of six campaign volunteers at Ted's Bulletin, a newly-opened restaurant on Capitol Hill.
The volunteers came from all over the country and were chosen to attend the lunch based on essays they wrote about organizing. Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago before he entered politics.
Joining the group was Sara El Amine, national training director for Obama for America, the president's main re-election campaign arm. The restaurant's menu is diner-style, with burgers, shakes and salads. The decor is 1930s retro, and "Three Stooges" films are often projected against a large wall. For Obama's visit, American flag toothpicks were stuck into cookies served to the contest-winning volunteers.
The group was made up of Oscar De Los Santis of California; Nora Fee of Oregon; Victoria Kirby of Washington, D.C.; Kathleen McKevitt of Idaho; Celeste Rotunda of Florida; and Henry Sha of Pennsylvania.
Grassroots efforts were key to Obama's 2008 victory, both in the Democratic primary against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, and the general election against Republican John McCain. But this kind of campaigning requires a highly motivated core group of organizers willing to host house parties, recruit friends and neighbors and make millions of small-dollar donations. Lackluster poll numbers and a struggling economy mean the Obama campaign is going to have to work even harder in 2012 to energize grassroots activists.
The meal was the second time in a week that Obama has been out for lunch on Capitol Hill. Last Wednesday he treated members of his staff to lunch at Good Stuff Eatery as a thank you for all their work on the debt ceiling negotiations.