A group of Republicans, looking to recoup the party's clout, is borrowing a page from liberal Democrats by beefing up Internet efforts to energize the grass roots.
The conservative Americans for Prosperity has further embraced Internet activism to energize its 700,000 members and point them to dozens of town-hall meetings with lawmakers over the past weeks, leaving Democrats on the defensive on a signature issue: overhauling health care.
Americans for Prosperity held their conference Right Online here last weekend. It centered on ramping up the use of Facebook, Twitter and other online megaphones to rally conservative opposition to what they consider ultra-liberal policies -- strategies popularized by organizations such as MoveOn.org and President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.
That's a shift, these activists say, from recent years of GOP strategy, where the shaping of the party's message has been largely top-down, with the message coming from party leaders. Now, the message is bubbling up more from groups of online activists.
"People are saying we're not hearing encouraging or inspiring messages from our leaders in Washington," said Erik Telford, Americans for Prosperity's director of online strategy. "We need to rebuild from the ground up."
Timothy Phillips, the 45-year-old GOP strategist from South Carolina who leads the six-year-old organization, said his group was only one of many that are urging members to speak out against liberal policies. He said they help channel discontent with Mr. Obama's agenda.
it comes to health care, Mr. Phillips outlined a straightforward strategy: Americans for Prosperity looked at every town hall scheduled by lawmakers across the country. It flagged the group's members within 100 miles of each event, and enlisted local representatives in each area, instead of "some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington," to contact supporters, Mr. Phillips said.
"We have three things: passion, news-talk radio and now online presence. Those three things are building our movement," Mr. Phillips said.
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Michelle Malkin was the star of the Right Online conference. See Freedom's Lighthouse, "Michelle Malkin Urges "Extreme Vigilance" at Right Online Conference - Video 8/15/09."
Photo Credit: Americans for Prosperity, "Over 400 People Rally Against Cap-and-Trade on AFP's Hot Air Tour."