Allies urge Obama to make the most of post-shutdown moment

President Obama can score second-term victories following the bitter government shutdown fight, the White House says. [WATCH VIDEO]

Despite increased tensions with congressional Republicans who are turning their fire on the chaotic rollout of the ObamaCare health exchanges, Team Obama believes common ground can be found.

White House allies, strategists and other observers suggest five ways the president could boost his chances of success.


Republicans repeatedly express deep skepticism that Obama will meet them halfway on any issue, especially since their rout in the fiscal fight. But they say they’d be willing to sit down and have a meaningful policy discussion if he would.

So, says one former senior administration official, “Why not take them away for the weekend to Camp David?” Obama could select a handful of “reasonable” rank and file Republicans who are willing to discuss how to move forward on agenda items including immigration reform.

In the scenic Catoctin Mountains, away from Washington’s febrile atmosphere, Obama could start negotiations with a different tone.

Even if such a meeting bore no early fruit, it would help the president debunk criticism of his scant outreach, the former official said, adding, “The more you do to show, ‘Hey I’m trying here [to be] better.’ At least he can say he tried to meet Republicans halfway…and who wouldn’t like a weekend at Camp David?”


“Where was Joe?” one Republican Hill staffer asked after the shutdown showdown.

Administration officials say Vice President Biden was involved behind the scenes in all meetings as part of the president’s team.

But his public role was smaller than in similar past episodes, when he sometimes spearheaded negotiations.

Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said he found Biden’s low profile “fascinating” and added “I don’t know what that’s about.”

Republicans say there’s a reason why they were able to work out deals in the past: They trust Biden, who served with many of them for years. He can listen sympathetically to their concerns even as he disagrees with them on substance.

Some Democrats think Biden gave in too much to Republican demands but the GOP believes he can be a force for good because, ultimately, he helps get deals done.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane added Biden “obviously distinguished himself in the past and can certainly be a formidable force.”


Obama can enroll business leaders who are disenchanted with Republicans on fiscal topics to help him secure deals with the GOP on other issues, a former administration official said. On immigration, for example, the president can emphasize how reform would help the economy and small businesses.


When it’s hard to find Republican allies in Washington, Obama should look beyond the Beltway to the rest of the nation, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons recommended.

Obama should reach out to Republican governors and use their cooperation to put pressure on the Congressional GOP, Simmons said.

The White House used this tactic in the recent fiscal battle. Obama held a conference call with a bipartisan group of governors last week and knocked Republican “brinksmanship” on Capitol Hill.

Simmons believes Obama should do more of that. “Democrats can’t just steamroll Republicans into doing what we want,” he said. “The White House needs to find a group of Republicans that Obama can work with. Maybe the Republican governors are the collaborators the president is looking for.”


Obama’s greatest strength in the most recent fight was to keep Democrats united and show that there was no daylight between him and those at the Capitol, allies say.

“The united front helped show the dichotomy between the two parties,” one former senior administration official said. “More than anything it showed the public who the rational party was.”

But unity will be difficult as the 2014 midterm elections draw near.

“Some senators are going to have a hard time defending his positions,” Susan MacManus, a professor of political science at the University of South Florida said.