The New York Times reports that President Obama is changing tactics as he approaches his second term in office. Instead of “hunkering down in budget negotiations,” the president is doing something you would think he would be happy to be rid of: campaign. His ground game of grassroots supporters will not disappear, but will remain largely intact to support him through the fiscal cliff negotiations. Responding to the ineffectiveness of his negotiations with the G.O.P. over the debt ceiling, among other issues, Obama is keeping the campaign offices from his reelection campaign and forging ties with business leaders, many of whom supported his opponent, Mitt Romney, in an effort to build political pressure on John Boehner and other top Republicans to make a grand bargain deal on the fiscal cliff.
With this move, Obama is countering what became a common narrative about him during his first term:
That story line, stoked by Republicans but shared by some Democrats, holds that Mr. Obama is too passive and deferential to Congress, a legislative naïf who does little to nurture personal relationships with potential allies — in short, not a particularly strong leader. Even as voters re-elected Mr. Obama, those who said in surveys afterward that strong leadership was the most important quality for a president overwhelmingly chose Mr. Romney.
The simple fact is that direct negotiations with Boehner did not yield the bipartisanship that Obama promised when campaigning in 2008, so he is trying a different move. While in his first term, Obama was quick to make concessions in an attempt to get Republican support, it appears that in his second term he will play hardball, and work to get support first and foremost through political pressure. His ground game was his greatest strength, and his greatest advantage over Romney during the election (whose failed voter targeting operation quickly became legendary in a bad way). He is using that same ground game to avoid the fiscal cliff and enact real policy changes in Washington.