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Originally published Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 8:35 PM

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Obama rallies Democrats to press forward against political headwinds

President Obama told those gathered at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting Saturday that party advocates should not simply "regroup, lick our wounds and try to hang on" during a challenging political season, but should press forward to deliver results on health-care and job-creation measures.

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Saturday that the Democratic Party should not simply "regroup, lick our wounds and try to hang on" during a challenging political season, pledging to press forward to deliver results on health-care and job-creation measures.

"I know we've gone through a tough year," Obama told party advocates, "but we've gone through tougher years."

The Democratic National Committee convened its annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C., as the capital was socked by a huge snowstorm, which had dumped about 2 feet of snow on the region by midmorning. The city was shuttered, but the gathering proceeded as scheduled, with Obama traveling two blocks from the White House to the Capital Hilton hotel.

"It is good to be among friends who are so committed to the future of this party that you braved a blizzard," Obama said. "Snowmageddon!"

The president's 20-minute speech Saturday was the latest in a series of party pep rallies and fundraising events as he tries to boost the spirits of Democrats bracing for the midterm elections. He acknowledged the headwinds facing the party but warned against moving away from initiatives on energy, education and financial regulation.

"We can't return to the dereliction of duty that helped deliver this recession," Obama said. "America can't afford to wait, and we can't look backward."

He renewed his call to find a way forward on his health-care agenda, which hit a setback when a Democratic loss in a special election in Massachusetts cost the party its supermajority in the Senate. He did not rule out scaling back the legislation in hopes of drawing more support.

"Just in case there's any confusion out there, I am not going to walk away from health-care reform," Obama said, offering no specifics for how he intended to deliver on his pledge. "I'm not going to walk away on this challenge. I'm not going to walk away on any challenge. We're moving forward."

The applause and standing ovation for the president Saturday belied a nervous mood among Democratic officials who gathered for a two-day meeting. Several acknowledged being worried about the year ahead for Democrats, but hoped the defeat in Massachusetts served as a warning siren.

"There has to be some positive news" on the economy and jobs, said Don Fowler of South Carolina, a former Democratic national chairman and longtime party official. "That's what leads people to vote. Massachusetts was a viper. We collectively have to do something to tamp down the anger. We've got to produce."

Tim Kaine, a former Virginia governor and current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the party needed to do a "better job telling the story" of how the Obama administration saved the country from economic collapse.

He said Democrats should not dwell on losing the Senate seat long held by Edward Kennedy to Scott Brown, a Republican who was sworn into office last week.

"The ghost of Harry Truman would kill us if he heard us complaining about 59 seats in the United States Senate," Kaine said. "But we have to learn some lessons."

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