Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod downplayed talk of an election mandate on the "fiscal cliff" on Thursday.
Axelrod said presidents always talk after an election about a mandate, but he called such talk "foolish." President Obama and congressional Republicans are bracing for talks on tax hikes and spending cuts that are now set to be implemented in January.
“Everyone’s going to have to come to the table in the spirit of getting things done, but on this issue of particularly the fiscal cliff — presidents always say, ‘I have a mandate'; that's a foolish word and generally untrue,” Axelrod told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Thursday.
Both sides have sought to put out markers on what Tuesday's election meant. Obama won an impressive victory over Republican Mitt Romney, winning just two fewer seats than in 2008. But his margin of victory was smaller in most states.
Democrats also picked up seats in the House and Senate, though Republicans retained control of the lower chamber.
On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters Obama had earned "a clear sort of mandate."
"On 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,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday said Obama's wins and Democratic congressional gains meant the status quo had changed, while Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) emphasized his party retained control of the House.
Axelrod echoed Boehner in striking a conciliatory tone and saying Obama was ready to negotiate with Repubicans.
“We want the doors to be open and we want people to walk through both ways,” Axelrod continued. “I don’t know anybody who is more willing to work with people from whatever political party … in order to move things forward, and I know he’s going to bring that spirit to this and other issues.”
Still, the gridlock of the past few years remains fresh on everyone’s mind, and Axelrod subtly laid blame for it on congressional Republicans.
“We want to break that misguided assumption that somehow obstruction is a winning strategy and that somehow partisanship takes precedence over progress, and hopefully this election will help do that.”