Amid White House concerns that it’s losing the message war on both its left and right fronts, President Obama on Thursday tried to rally his grass-roots army to regain momentum and redefine the battle for health care reform. In a conference call with Organizing For America activists, the 13-million-strong grass-roots wing of his machine, Obama told supporters they must battle misinformation being spread by opponents of his plan, such as claims that the bills in Congress would cover illegal immigrants or amount to a government takeover of health care. “Now, come on. We can have a real debate because health care’s hard and there are some legitimate issues out there that have to be sorted through and worked on,” Obama said. “The best ambassadors for true information, factual information is all of you. You have more credibility than anybody on television when it comes to your family members and your friends and your neighbors and that’s why you being involved is so important,” Obama told supporters. For many Democratic activists, Tuesday call raised the question: What took the White House so long? “I have no explanation for this,” said Joe Trippi, a supporter of the Obama plan and grass-roots activism expert. “I cannot figure out why they didn’t start the mobilization effort earlier and why it does appear that the right got the jump on it.” Conservative attacks about rationing and “death panels," however, are only half of the White House’s problems. In recent days, Obama’s own liberal base — and their powerful talk-show host allies — have opened a new front by attempting to define health care reform as the creation of a government-run insurance program. Without a so-called "public option," it’s not real reform, they argue — even as White House officials have said that while a public plan is "the preferred option," its not "the essential element" of a successful plan. The dual fronts have left the normally silver-tongued Obama administration nearly stuttering with frustration. Asked about if the White House had failed to effectively galvanize its base, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday opened his answer with: “Well, again, I'd — I think I would dispute the beginning characterization. I think, again, particularly at the events that you saw the president do, I don't — I don't think you noticed a lack of support for providing health care reform among those that were outside of the president's events,” he said. This isn’t the first time that the Obama machine has been ambushed in a message war by the opposition. In the administration’s earliest debate over a stimulus bill, the White House messaging machine seemed to be humming along — until the Republicans found a wayward provision related to abortions and used their own powerful talk show host allies to begin driving down public support for the economic recovery package. In that case, the president managed to slug his way through the rough patch and go on to win. The White House now needs a similar turnaround to preserve his chief domestic policy — and his supporters are anxiously awaiting the plan. Ahead of the call, Organizing for America’s Pennsylvania Director Elizabeth Lucas said she hoped to hear the president’s take on the situation and to “talk about some strategy.” It’s not that Obama’s grass-roots army has been standing idle. Jeremy Bird, the organization’s deputy national director, can tick off a host of behind-the-scenes accomplishments: More than 1.5 million people have taken more than 3 million actions — including canvassing, phone banking and hosting local events — to promote the president’s plan.