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Friday, March 19, 2010

Undecided Democrats Avoiding Obama's Calls

Dems Ducking Obama's Reform Calls

If anyone sets up a Do Not Call Registry to block phone solicitations from the White House, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) wants in.

Cuellar, a fiscally and socially moderate Hispanic Democrat from Laredo, tells reporters that he’s strongly leaning toward backing heath care reform – but that he’s been ducking calls from President Obama’s staff because he doesn’t want to enter the wind tunnel of presidential persuasion.

“With all due respect to the president, I have to look at my district. ... I want to make up my own mind,” said Cuellar, one of several Democrats who have told POLITICO that they’ve been avoiding Obama and his surrogates during the final few days of lobbying.

The last call came from Dan Turton, Obama’s top liaison to the House, the day before last – “I haven’t returned it,” said Cuellar, a former Texas secretary of state with a maverick streak. He endorsed George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential race.

“Whether [Obama] is popular or not in my district – I don’t know,” Cuellar added with a sly smile. “But he’s not going to be supporting me in my district. He’s not going to be running in my election.”

This week, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), who is a “no,” told POLITICO that he hadn’t been responding to some White House calls because there was little to change his mind.

Hiding from the White House – or Congressional leaders – is nothing new during tough votes. During last year’s vote on climate change legislation, allies of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) searched frantically for one member, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.), who voted against the majority and sped from the chamber.

When asked if any Democrats were avoiding Obama on Thursday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “Not that I'm aware of.”

Sources: Politico

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