Gergen, 13 --- professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government (1/18/2013, David, CNN Wire, “Obama 2.0: Smarter, tougher -- but wiser?” Factiva))
Strikingly, Obama has also been deft in the ways he has drawn upon Vice President Joe Biden. During much of the campaign, Biden appeared to be kept under wraps. But in the transition, he has been invaluable to Obama in negotiating a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the fiscal cliff and in pulling together the gun package. Biden was also at his most eloquent at the ceremony announcing the gun measures.
All of this has added up for Obama to one of the most effective transitions in modern times. And it is paying rich dividends: A CNN poll this past week pegged his approval rating at 55%, far above the doldrums he was in for much of the past two years. Many of his long-time supporters are rallying behind him. As the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to score back-to-back election victories with more than 50% of the vote, Obama is in the strongest position since early in his first year.
Smarter, tougher, bolder -- his new style is paying off politically. But in the long run, will it also pay off in better governance? Perhaps -- and for the country's sake, let's hope so. Yet, there are ample reasons to wonder, and worry.
Ultimately, to resolve major issues like deficits, immigration, guns and energy, the president and Congress need to find ways to work together much better than they did in the first term. Over the past two years, Republicans were clearly more recalcitrant than Democrats, practically declaring war on Obama, and the White House has been right to adopt a tougher approach after the elections.
But a growing number of Republicans concluded after they had their heads handed to them in November that they had to move away from extremism toward a more center-right position, more open to working out compromises with Obama. It's not that they suddenly wanted Obama to succeed; they didn't want their party to fail.
House Speaker John Boehner led the way, offering the day after the election to raise taxes on the wealthy and giving up two decades of GOP orthodoxy. In a similar spirit, Rubio has been developing a mainstream plan on immigration, moving away from a ruinous GOP stance.
One senses that the hope, small as it was, to take a brief timeout on hyperpartisanship in order to tackle the big issues is now slipping away.
While a majority of Americans now approve of Obama's job performance, conservatives increasingly believe that in his new toughness, he is going overboard, trying to run over them.They don't see a president who wants to roll up his sleeves and negotiate; they see a president who wants to barnstorm the country to beat them up. News that Obama is converting his campaign apparatus into a nonprofit to support his second term will only deepen that sense. And it frustrates them that he is winning: At their retreat, House Republicans learned that their disapproval has risen to 64%.
Conceivably, Obama's tactics could pressure Republicans into capitulation on several fronts.More likely, they will be spoiling for more fights. Chances for a "grand bargain" appear to be hanging by a thread.
Focus and prioritization matter even if political capital doesn’t exist --- plan can still tradeoff with other priorities