Conservatives counsel back-to-basics campaigning

FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey (right), former House majority leader, argued at the session at Spring Hill Manor in Ivyland for the election of conservatives to the U.S. Senate and House, to ensure control no matter who wins the presidency. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff
FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey (right), former House majority leader, argued at the session at Spring Hill Manor in Ivyland for the election of conservatives to the U.S. Senate and House, to ensure control no matter who wins the presidency. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff
Posted: June 04, 2012

Forget the campaign ads designed to persuade, repel, or mislead from a television screen — the most effective way to capture votes is back-fence politics.

That was the message Saturday at a training session in Ivyland, Bucks County, for campaign workers hosted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit group that trains volunteers and assists political campaigns.

More than 100 people — many representing local tea party groups — gathered at Spring Mill Manor for a tutorial on getting out the vote using strategies that emphasize old-fashioned elbow grease and newfangled media. They talked chitchats with neighbors, planting a political sign in just the right spot, and learning the basics of Twitter to make the conversation digital.

The ultimate goal: defeating President Obama.

"We now have a government by and large staffed with people who are openly contemptuous of the Constitution of the United States," said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, chairman of FreedomWorks. "They are intent on having their way with America for the purposes of their power and their control, and that means we must rise up and protect the Constitution."

Attendees cited the struggling economy, job growth, burdensome taxes, and failing public education as major concerns in the fight to defeat a president they believe has failed the nation as a leader.

But that doesn’t mean there was a stampede to support Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"We’ll get Romney in, and, hopefully, we’ll get someone more conservative later," said Anna Puig, a FreedomWorks field director and leader of the Kitchen Table Patriots in Doylestown.

Armey argued for the election of conservatives in the U.S. Senate and House, resulting in conservative control of a Republican majority in both chambers to "fence out Obama and fence in Romney," giving conservatives the power no matter who is elected. He also argued for the importance of local elections to affect issues such as school choice.

Outside Spring Mill Manor, supporters of CREDO SuperPac, a Doylestown political group, protested the meeting.

"We think the tea party is too extreme for Bucks County," said Michael Eagle, 30, of Doylestown.

CREDO is waging a national campaign to defeat tea party and tea party-supported candidates, Eagle said. The protesters brandished signs calling for the defeat of Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Republican whose district includes Bucks County and parts of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia.

Inside the country club, a conservative political philosophy was proudly on display.

Marsha Andrews of Fort Washington said she went to the meeting to learn about strategies that will help mobilize the Hispanic vote. Andrews, who is Hispanic, ran unsuccessfully for the Upper Dublin school board this year. She supports school choice, a focal point of a presentation by Lisa Snell of the Reason Education Foundation.

Snell argued that school choice was "winning," citing the adoption of voucher systems in Indiana and Oakland, Calif.

In Pennsylvania, a bill that would provide vouchers for some low-income students and increase the number of charter schools was passed in the state Senate but is stuck in committee in the House.

Contact Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.

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