The Blue Coalition is a group of conservative Democrats who currently have a 49 person membership in Congress. According to WAPO their numbers are expected to expand after the election and they could pose a significant road block for Obama and his economic plans. The Coalition is seen as a very powerful block so Obama called each member to set some ground rules early.
Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill see Obama's early relationship-building as evidence that he is determined to take office with a legislative plan in place.
One issue is that the Blue Dogs do not like government spending and demand more fiscal discipline among other things. Obama is not waiting until January to begin planning his government. He is calling and working to find votes now.
"He [Obama] said he planned to be the next president and he wanted to work with us," Ross said in recounting his conversation with Obama before the House approved a $700 billion economic rescue package. "He also recognized that we had the numbers to block or clear" legislation coming from the White House if he is elected.
Obama's economic advisors have been in continuous communications with the Blue Dogs to gain their confidence and support of Obama's planned legislation. In doing so, the Blue Dogs seemingly are becoming more open and flexible.
For the Blue Dogs, a partnership with Obama provides a pathway out of an ideological cul-de-sac that the group backed into by insisting that the House adopt budget rules linking every spending increase or tax cut to a specific spending cut or new revenue source. Even many in the group concede that the standard was difficult to meet and caused friction among House Democrats, as well as open warfare with the Senate.
"They recognize that they've sort of committed themselves to a rather inflexible standard of fiscal discipline," said Scott Lilly, a longtime senior House aide and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Obama, he said, "is looking at the Blue Dogs and realizing their position is not in line with what he needs. It's a very good sign. He's counting votes already, and he's got a pretty good sense of where the issues are going to be."
And, the Blue Dogs are beginning to see Obama as person with the fiscal discipline they can work with.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a budget expert who endorsed Obama early in his campaign, had pressed the Democratic nominee to court his colleagues. Cooper said the result was likely to be real flexibility in setting a new budget course. "We're going to have an engaged President Obama, and I think we will have a good fiscal steward."
Let's see what happens with our beloved Blue Dogs next year.