President Obama’s Quick Pivot From Campaigning to Governing

BY Terence Burlij  November 8, 2012 at 9:17 AM EDT

Ben's Chili Bowl; photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Shayla Fugate celebrates President Obama’s win Tuesday night outside of Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.

The Morning Line

For President Obama, Inauguration Day is still 73 days away, but the work of a second term begins now.

The president shed some light on his agenda on election night after his electoral fate had been sealed. “In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit; reforming our tax code; fixing our immigration system; freeing ourselves from foreign oil,” he said.

The first order of business will be working with congressional leaders to broker an agreement to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which is set to arrive in January with the expiration of all the President George W. Bush-era tax breaks plus more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts to domestic and military programs.

Mr. Obama did not speak publicly Wednesday, but Vice President Biden talked with reporters en route from Chicago to Delaware. The vice president said he and Mr. Obama were “anxious to get moving” on the fiscal cliff and other matters, including tax reform.

“On the issue of the tax issue, there was a clear, a clear sort of mandate about people coming much closer to our view about how to deal with tax policy,” Mr. Biden said. “I think we can do something on corporate taxes sooner than later. That would be positive, be a little confidence-building. And you know I just think it’s going to take time for the Republicans to sort of digest what the consequences [are] for them internally.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signalled that Republicans might be willing to accept additional revenues, by ending tax breaks and doing away with certain loopholes, but not through raising rates on Americans.

“We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions. What matters is where the increased revenue comes from and what type of reform comes with it,” Rep. Boehner said at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday afternoon. “Does the increased revenue come from government taking a larger share of what the American people earn through higher tax rates? Or does it come as a byproduct of growing our economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates for all?”

The No. 2 Republican in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, released a statement that said Tuesday’s election had not given Democrats a mandate to increase tax rates. He also warned that failure to avoid the fiscal cliff could bring “dire consequences.”

But at least when it comes to the tax issue, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., read Tuesday’s outcome far differently.

“Look at all the exit polls, look at all the polling. The vast majority of the American people, rich, poor, everybody agrees that the rich — richest of the rich have to help a little bit,” he said at a midday briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill.

Nearly half of voters (47 percent) said Tuesday they thought income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 a year should go up. Another 13 percent said rates for all Americans should be increased, while 35 percent said taxes should not be raised on anyone.

As the dust settles from the campaign, the business of governing will take hold, with a list of priorities already taking shape.

With Latino voters representing a major part of the president’s coalition, preferring the Democrat over Romney by 44 percentage points, Brian Bennett, Hector Becerra and David Lauter of the Los Angeles Times report there will likely be a renewed push for immigration reform in Mr. Obama’s second term.

Energy and the environment will also garner some attention, with the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson looking at Democratic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost energy efficiency.

And the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker explore what could be on the horizon when it comes to changes among Cabinet officials:

There is talk about bringing in Republicans and business executives to help rebuild bridges to both camps. The one Republican in the cabinet now, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has said he will leave. One possible candidate, advisers say, could be Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican moderate from Maine who is retiring.

A front-runner for secretary of state appears to be Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Democrats said worries about losing his Senate seat to the Republicans in a special election had diminished with Tuesday’s victories. Another candidate has been Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, but she has been a target of Republicans since she provided the administration’s initial accounts, which proved to be wrong, of the September terrorist attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

As Democrats basked in their wins, Mr. Obama visited his Chicago campaign headquarters Wednesday to thank volunteers. Staffers climbed on top of desks to get a glimpse of the newly re-elected president, who hugged aides and spent more than an hour in the building, sans the press.

On Wednesday, the NewsHour examined how the president was able to win — and how Romney lost — in a discussion with three journalists who covered different aspects of the contest. Judy Woodruff talked with Slate’s Sasha Issenberg, the Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker.

They looked at the Obama campaign’s early investment in the ground game, with Lee saying the re-election team believes that was the single most important decision made. Rucker talked about some of Romney’s missteps, and Issenberg detailed the Obama camp’s focus on turning its supporters out as opposed to converting non-voters into voters.

Watch the segment here or below:


Don’t miss Rucker’s look inside the Romney campaign in Thursday’s paper.

RESULTS KEEP TRICKLING IN

In Montana on Wednesday, Sen. Jon Tester was declared re-elected in his race against Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, another Democratic win in a conservative-leaning state. Republican Rep. Rick Berg conceded to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota’s Senate race despite a razor-thin margin that triggered an automatic recount. Plus, Democrat Steve Bullock, a first-term attorney general, took the prize in a surprise victory in Montana’s gubernatorial race.

Democrats have the majority in the Senate with 53 seats, plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. Incoming independent Angus King of Maine has not yet said which party he’ll choose. Republicans have 45 Senate seats. The GOP kept its majority in the House with what looks to be a 235-200 split once all the races are settled.

While the political status quo in Washington remains mostly unchanged, Jeffrey Brown talked with Stu Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report and Linda Killian of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars about what the results in a handful of races and ballot initiatives, from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to same-sex marriage, suggest about American voters.

Watch Jeff’s segment here or below:


In the presidential race, Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes remain uncalled. The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith reported that it appears Mr. Obama is likely to be the victor there as well, in part because the president’s margin in south Florida’s big counties overwhelmed Romney’s lead in the more conservative Panhandle.

“Obama’s prize: Miami-Dade. Obama got 203,947 more votes here than Romney, a huge victory that put him on top,” Smith wrote.

WOMEN MAKE HISTORY

In addition to expanding her party’s majority in the Senate, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said her proudest accomplishment serving as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s chairwoman was electing and recruiting so many Democratic women.

In the Senate, thanks mostly to the Democratic side where every incumbent was re-elected, a record 20 women won seats.

“Offensive comments from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not decide the election,” Murray told reporters Wednesday, noting hard work and the willingness to “play offense this cycle” were the clinchers.
Murray praised the voices of Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who became the first openly gay senator; Elizabeth Warren, who became Massachusetts’ first female senator, beating out incumbent Sen. Scott Brown; and Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota’s senator-elect who ran on her political independence.

“I don’t think anyone thought [Baldwin] was a shoe-in or that she could even win,” Murray said, adding she was excited to see these women take on bids for the Senate. “What women bring is the reality of respect,” she said. Murray said when male politicians debate contraception and other matters, “People can say when they see men, ‘They don’t understand what they’re talking about.’”

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • Historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith offer their takes on the election. Beschloss writes that history is rarely kind to losing nominees. Smith compares President Obama to Ronald Reagan.

  • Gwen Ifill examines the policy challenges ahead of the president, from immigration reform to the fiscal cliff.

  • Mark Shields and David Brooks offer their post-election analysis. Watch here.

  • Kaiser Health News examines what will happen with health care reform.

  • Paul Solman concludes pollsters got it right.

  • Patchwork Nation’s Dante Chinni dives in to the exit polls.

  • Kwame Holman and Cassie M. Chew talk with voters in Northern Virginia on Election Day, with a focus on Latinos who were key to the president’s re-election.

  • Check out a slide show showing reactions to the election from across the country.

  • Miss our election liveblog? Here’s the archive.

  • NewsHour politics editor Christina Bellantoni will be a panelist at the CQ Election Impact panel Thursday. Check out the full lineup. And here is her appearance on Wednesday’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show.”

TOP TWEETS

BEST FROM AROUND THE WEB

  • Politico’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin devote a long story to the Republican intraparty examination that began after Romney’s loss.

  • Roll Call’s Eliza Newlin Carney and Politico’s Ken Vogel explore the effectiveness of the mega super PACs.

  • Leadership races already have begun on Capitol Hill. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is considering a bid to run the Senate Republican campaign arm, but Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas says he has enough support to capture the slot.

  • Here’s a handy chart from Roll Call of all the congressional races, with links to new member profiles of newly elected folks.

  • Now’s as good a time as any to read Bloomberg Businessweek’s “How to De-Romneyize an Airplane.

  • The biggest winner in Tuesday’s election could have been public opinion polls. And that may be a problem.

  • Chris Cillizza makes no apologies for looking ahead to 2016.

  • BuzzFeed’s McCay Coppins unpacks the fragile relationship between the Romney campaign and The Donald.

  • The Virginian-Pilot reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Warner will make a decision by Thanksgiving about a possible 2013 gubernatorial bid in Virginia.

  • A woman outside of Nairobi named her twin babies Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. No, really.

Katelyn Polantz, Christina Bellantoni and Meena Ganesan contributed to this report.

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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.