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Obama to hold online town hall meeting

The president is stepping up his online grassroots campaign to win support for his budget proposal by hosting an online town hall meeting Thursday.

President Barack Obama is turning directly to the public to win support for his economic proposals in ways unseen from any president before him, and on Tuesday he continued that by introducing a new feature on called "Open for Questions."

The new feature, modeled after the "Open for Questions" tool on, allows users to ask a question about the economy, as well as vote for or against others' questions. On Thursday morning, the president will hold an online town hall meeting on the economy, streamed on, and answer some of the most popular questions from the tool.

"One of my priorities as president is opening up the White House to the American people so that folks can understand what we're up to and have a chance to participate themselves," Obama says in an introductory video at the "Open for Questions" page. "We're going to take advantage of the Internet to bring all of you to the White House to talk about the economy...This is an experiment, but it's also an exciting opportunity for me to look at a computer and get a snapshot of what Americans across the country care about. We may not always agree on everything, but this way, I can get a sense of your concerns and give you some straight answers."

After visitors set up an account on by submitting their name, e-mail address, zip code, and choosing a password, they can submit or review questions in a number of different categories related to the economy: jobs, health care reform, education, home ownership, veterans, auto industry, financial stability, green jobs and energy, retirement security, small business, and budget.

The terms of participation notify users that the tool is hosted by Google but that owns and has access to the data related to the questions and voting, which will be treated in accordance with the privacy policy. It also says Google never receives the e-mail addresses submitted and does not store the IP addresses related to the tool.

The new feature was launched the same day President Obama held a nationally televised, prime time news conference to advocate for his $3.55 trillion budget proposal and other economic plans. Besides making more television appearances than might be expected from the president--his stint on NBC's "The Tonight Show" was the first time a sitting president was a guest on a late night talk show--Obama is making use of the millions of e-mail addresses his team gathered during the presidential campaign to directly appeal for people's support for his budget.

The group Organizing for America, overseen by the Democratic National Committee, has sent out e-mails over the past week and a half asking Obama supporters to mobilize on behalf of the president's agenda.

"In the next few weeks we'll be asking you to do some of the same things we asked of you during the campaign--talking directly to people in your communities about the president's ideas for long-term prosperity," David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager wrote to the e-mail list on March 13.

A tool featured on the DNC Web site allows visitors to submit their address to find the phone numbers for their congressional representatives, in order to make calls in support of Obama's budget. It also provides a script for volunteers to follow during the calls.