Grassroots anti-Obama group opens office in Chadds Ford

Brandon Cox unfurls an American flag outside the new office of American Majority Action in Chadds Ford. The group seeks to reach out to potential swing voters in the Pennsylvania suburbs.
Brandon Cox unfurls an American flag outside the new office of American Majority Action in Chadds Ford. The group seeks to reach out to potential swing voters in the Pennsylvania suburbs. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 09, 2012

The house in Chadds Ford is tiny, no bigger than a log cabin. But it has a new American flag and a new purpose: It is one of the places from which a conservative nonprofit group, American Majority Action, hopes to help take back the White House for the Republican Party.

The other day, Jamie Cox, her son Brandon, 24, and Caitlinn Stoltz, 23, pulled up in a red Jeep at the house on Old Route 1 and unloaded about a dozen laptops. Later, she explained: "What we are doing here is all about providing educational material to those who want to knock on doors and to call voters to convince them."

Or, as Martin Gillespie put it: "It's all about firing President Obama."

The executive director of American Majority Action, based in Virginia, Gillespie emphasized the group's stance: "The president has done a bad job on the economy, he is responsible for huge unemployment rates, and he is taking away our freedom."

Though Cox said the group could rely on 50 local volunteers right now, Gillespie stressed that it planned to help as many as 2,000 volunteers by cooperating with similarly minded local groups, such as Delaware County Patriots and the Coalition for Advancing Freedom.

Those who want to try to persuade swing voters in their neighborhoods to vote Republican on Nov. 6 can download written arguments on their laptops or smartphones. One card claims "Obamacare ... will reduce the number of doctors and health-care providers and impede access to quality care." That message, which Democrats dispute, is an oft-repeated Republican and tea party assertion.

Gillespie said the key idea behind American Majority Action was its grassroots approach: "What all those million dollars for TV spots can't buy is just neighbors talking to neighbors," he said. "Who are you going to believe in, if not in men and women living next door to you?"

Gillespie did not say how much American Majority Action plans to spend here, but he made clear the Chadds Ford house was meant to be a hub of get-out-the-vote activity in the critical swing suburbs of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties as well as other targeted areas in the state's eastern half. He said there was "a substantial amount of money available, provided by different kinds of donors, including a few major ones."

"Indeed, the American presidential election might be decided in suburban Pennsylvania," he said. Chester County, according to state election officials, is home to 148,000 registered Republicans and 125,000 registered Democrats. Democrats have grown stronger in the region in the last decade.

American Majority Action describes itself as a sister of American Majority, a nonprofit that offers political training to conservative activists and candidates in state and local races. Ned Ryun, a former aide to President George W. Bush who heads both groups, is touted on their websites as "a rising star in the conservative and tea party movements."

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, which tracks campaign money, American Majority Action spent $158,000 on federal races in 2010 - about $117,000 of it for Republicans and the rest against Democrats. The group spent $30,000 to back Republican Pat Toomey's successful 2010 run for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania.

About 100 people turned out for Thursday's official opening of the Chadds Ford office. Two weeks earlier, the group opened a headquarters near Pittsburgh, and it has offices in Ohio and Wisconsin - all aiming to promote and assist local activities.

Bring it on, says a member of the Delaware County Patriots. "I am glad American Majority Action is here to help us," said Mary Ellen Jones, "They've just got the same idea of freedom we have." She plans to knock on doors and call voters to help "prevent the catastrophe of having another Obama term."

A small businesswoman whose company, with about 20 employees, provides home care to seniors, Jones said she once had doubts about Republican nominee Mitt Romney. "Now that I know more about him, I'm 100 percent behind him."

She likes Romney's business background, calls him "an overall decent human being who just doesn't brag about the good things he is doing," and is "cautiously optimistic" about his chances.

Much work awaits conservative and tea party activists here if recent polls are any guide. Surveys taken before the parties' conventions found Obama leading Romney by up to nine percentage points in Pennsylvania.

But at least in Chadds Ford, they're ready. This week, Brandon Cox affixed an American flag to the house dubbed Liberty Headquarters.


Contact Tobias Peter at 267-243-6538 or tpeter@philly.com.

|
|
|
|
|