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Democratic effort to sell health care change underway in Missouri

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 21, 2009 - Missouri is once again in the eye of a political storm, as Democratic activists literally go door-to-door to sell President Barack Obama's campaign to revamp the nation's health care system.

Daniel Herman, Missouri's state director for Organizing for America (the Democrats' post-election grassroots operation), said in a conference call this morning that women-to-women phone banks are some of the group's latest activities in the state.

Door-to-door canvassing was conducted last weekend, and will be underway next weekend, Herman said.

Such efforts have been easy to put together and execute, Herman said, because health care is "a policy issue everyone can relate to personally'' -- including his group's volunteers and the people they're trying to reach.

Joining Herman on this morning's call was state Democratic Party chairman Craig Hosmer, a lawyer from Springfield, Mo., and U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, who got a first-hand taste Monday of the passions the issue ignites on all sides.

Carnahan's comments were generally in line with what he said at his forum Monday: That the status quo on healthcare can't be sustained.

The congressman added a political element today, when he pushed against the idea that the Democrats were seeking to rush changes through Congress without proper discussion. "Most of what we are talking about in the bill is not new ... it's been debated for many years,'' Carnahan said.

"This is not new or rushed,'' he continued. What's prompting the push for action now, Carnahan said, is "we do realize there's an optimum window of time."

Action must be taken this year, Carnahan and Hosmer said, because next year -- 2010 -- is a congressional election year. The implied message was that Congress won't act then on such a volatile issue as health care.

Carnahan said as much when he highlighted well-publicized comments of GOP critics who contend that if they can delay or defeat Obama's health-care effort, Republicans will gain in next year's election.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.