The next chapter in the skirmishing over the nation’s finances plays out during a phase of the political calendar that gives Obama unusual access to the power of the presidential bully pulpit, with his inauguration for a second term and State of the Union address in the coming weeks.
The administration is considering how to make the best use of the opportunities, the White House official said. Obama is likely to repeat tactics he used to mobilize public opinion in the fight over tax rates, including a social media campaign and campaign-style appearances outside Washington, the official said.
Patrick Griffin, who was White House congressional lobbying chief for Democratic President Bill Clinton, said the debt limit “is not the leverage that Republicans think it will be.”
Obama “is completely in a different position” than during the 2011 debt talks, Griffin said.
The president has a fresh political mandate from his re-election. And corporate leaders anxious to avert the economic disruption of a debt default have taken a more prominent role in pressing for compromise, Griffin said.
Obama also has gained more public credibility on the deficit, in part because he has spent more time speaking out about wanting to bring down government debt, Griffin said. A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Dec. 7-10 found 40 percent public approval of Obama’s handling of the deficit versus 32 percent in June 2011, at the start of the last debt-limit talks.
Congressional Republicans have now twice backed off threats to stand fast in the face of a financial crisis, agreeing to the debt-limit increase in August 2011 and reaching a deal to avert the tax increase on Jan. 1.
“Republicans conceded they did not want to create a crisis on the fiscal cliff,” Griffin said. “Why would they want to turn around and create an even bigger crisis on the debt limit?”