President Obama Suggests He Has Mandate From Middle Class

BY Christina Bellantoni and Katelyn Polantz  November 15, 2012 at 9:28 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

President Obama talks to reporters Wednesday at the White House. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters.

The Morning Line

“I’m more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms. We are very cautious about that,” President Obama told reporters Wednesday.

Still two months from the start of his second term, the president stressed again and again that he wants to work for the middle class, saying in his first full-scale news conference since the spring that his only mandate is to help them and stressing that the wealthy can easily pay more in taxes.

Mr. Obama said the American people sent him a message: “Work really hard to help us. Don’t worry about the politics of it; don’t worry about the party interests; don’t worry about the special interests. Just work really hard to see if you can help us get ahead — because we’re working really hard out here and we’re still struggling, a lot of us.”

He added that he doesn’t have another election to worry about and insisted, “I didn’t get re-elected just to bask in re-election.”

Yet he sounded a confident note about his charge for the next four years, on the matter of taxes and spending but also on immigration reform. Mr. Obama pointedly selected Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro for his third question, a departure from the traditional wire services and major television networks who usually get the first half-dozen queries.

She asked about immigration, and Mr. Obama said that “some conversations” are already happening between his staff and members of Congress “about what would this look like.”

Asked about Mitt Romney, the president said he hopes to sit down with his former rival before the end of the year. “He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. So it would be interesting to talk to him about something like that. There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear,” Mr. Obama said. “So I’m not either prejudging what he’s interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I’ve got some specific assignment. But what I want to do is to get ideas from him and see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together.”

But the losing Republican nominee did himself no favors this week. The Los Angeles Times reported on details of Romney’s conference call with some of his top donors and campaign fundraisers Wednesday afternoon, telling them that Mr. Obama had been “very generous” to blacks, Hispanics and young voters with policies on expanding birth control coverage and student loans. Romney also dubbed the president’s decision to halt deportations of young students “amnesty,” the paper reported.

“The president’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars,” Romney said on the call.

The New York Times also listened in on the call and reports that Romney said Mr. Obama campaigned on the “old playbook” of wooing blacks, Latinos and young people.

The Republican also told donors that the party’s next nominee “will not be me.”

The Associated Press’ Phil Elliot has more on what top Republicans say are lessons learned from Romney’s failed campaign.

Watch President Obama’s news conference in full here or below:

REACTION FROM THE HILL

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Gwen Ifill talked with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, about their reactions to Mr. Obama’s news conference. They came at it from different sides, but each said Mr. Obama has an opportunity to forge a compromise.

Durbin said it can’t happen soon enough. “We are edging closer to the cliff,” he said.

Hutchison said Mr. Obama is misinterpreting his victory as a vote of support for higher taxes:

[P]eople voted for him because they believed he would help the middle class and they know that jobs are scarce, that we have almost an 8 percent unemployment. And I think what they want is for him to fix this. And what we want is for him to fix this with our help and in a way that will be pro-growth and pro-economic vitality.

Read a transcript of the discussion here.

Photo by Alex Bruns/PBS NewsHour.

FACE THE FACTS

Thursday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at defense spending if sequestration cuts go through:

They would shave $52.3 billion from the Pentagon in 2013. That would drop the Defense Department budget to $643 billion, still dwarfing #2 spender China, with its military budget estimated at $120 billion.

The nonpartisan organization has retooled post-election to offer new facts tied to the news.

LINE ITEMS

  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state brings some gender diversity to Republican House leadership. She won the party’s conference chairmanship on Wednesday in a victory for Speaker John Boehner after a fight with Rep. Tom Price of Georgia that inflamed tensions over party diversity. Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser reports that “most members called [the race] a dead-heat contest, although the official vote tally was not released.”

  • Nancy Pelosi isn’t stepping down as House Democratic leader after a decade. She held a news conference Wednesday with Democratic women, which included some candid moments after NBC’s Luke Russert asked a question Pelosi deemed offensive. Politico’s David Rogers analyzes her decision to remain leader with this line: “Salmon swim upstream to spawn and die. Nancy Pelosi sticks around to see what comes of the eggs.”

  • Retiring Texas Rep. Ron Paul — who led a rogue libertarian-leaning campaign for president this year that at times disrupted and pulled the Republican Party toward his “liberty” platform — delivered a 52-minute farewell address on the House floor Wednesday. The Washington Times has the full transcript of the speech. Now’s as good a time as any to re-read Manu Raju’s recent piece for Politico on the policy and ideology of Paul’s son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who hopes to inject the philosophy and support base of his father into the Republican Party.

  • Vice President Biden is meeting Thursday with the following mayors: Michael Nutter of Philadelphia; Scott Smith of Mesa, Ariz.; Joseph P. Riley Jr. of Charleston, S.C.; Don Plusquellic of Akron, Ohio; Michael Hancock of Denver; Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore; Stephen Benjamin of Columbia, S.C.; Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock, Ark.; Michael Bissonnette of Chicopee, Mass.; Joseph McElveen of Sumter, S.C.; Setti Warren of Newton, Mass.; Paul Soglin of Madison, Wis.; Alvin Brown of Jacksonville, Fla.; and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis. He’ll talk with them about the administration’s push to raise taxes on the wealthy.

  • Maine Sen.-elect Angus King, an independent, has decided he’ll caucus with the Democrats yet plans not to toe the party line. Watch the NewsHour on Thursday for our interview with the incoming senator.

  • Texas Sen. John Cornyn bemoans bad candidates in a Politico exit interview as National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet will need to walk a fine line if he takes the job as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman, Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner reports.

  • Talking Points Memo’s Benjy Sarlin explores how the next few months are key for Republicans looking at 2016.

  • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has apologized to the reporter he threatened.

  • Billy Corriher pens a USA Today column looking at the amounts special interest groups pumped into state Supreme Court races this election.

  • Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urges in the New York Daily News to improve infrastructure and combat climate change to avoid more Sandy-like devastation.

  • New York Times Magazine national correspondent Mark Leibovich outs a self-proclaimed on-background source from Capitol Hill on Twitter.

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, both Republicans, have asked President Obama to extend the deadline that would require them to decide if their state will create health care exchanges. Here’s the letter. The NewsHour will have more on this issue later this week.

  • GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas nominated Newt Gingrich to be speaker when the House cast votes for its leaders.

  • Democrats hold leads in the remaining House races still uncalled, Roll Call’s Abby Livingston reports.

  • Controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio would like to “light up cigars” with Mr. Obama.

  • It looks even more like a Bush descendant, George P., son of Jeb and nephew of George W., will run for a state office in Texas. Here’s his exploratory committee’s website.

  • The Buffalo News has already endorsed Hillary Clinton as a 2016 presidential candidate.

  • Citizens of Scranton, Pa.,, get ready to pay your garbage bills for the past 13 years.

  • A man in Florida appears to have committed suicide because of President Obama’s re-election, reports the Miami Herald.

  • “It was a privilege to follow Gen. David Petraeus and see the war through his eyes. I learned a tremendous amount about leadership, about taking care of soldiers, about vision and strategy and so forth. But I also learned a lot about the resilience of our troops. I spent time with Gen. David Petraeus at headquarters but I also embedded with infantry units and one artillery unit.” That was Paula Broadwell speaking from the Ustream Live Stage at The PPL during this year’s Democratic National Convention. NewsHour partner UStream has the archived footage here.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • Jason Kane writes up a primer on meningitis.

  • Check out a slide show of the austerity protests across Europe.

TOP TWEETS

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.