Obama moves from confrontation to wooing Republicans. Will it work?

President Obama's job rating has dropped in the latest poll. Now, he's moving away from confrontation, planning to meet with House and Senate Republicans on their turf next week.

Steve Helber/AP
President Barack Obama speaks in Newport News, Va. Feb. 26. Turning from confrontation, Obama will meet this coming week with House and Senate Republicans.

President Obama’s charm offensive with congressional Republicans continued Saturday with his weekly radio address.

Referring to GOP lawmakers as “principled people who want what’s best for this country,” he noted that he’ll be meeting separately with House and Senate Republicans on their turf this coming week.

“The fact is, America is a nation of different beliefs and different points of view. That’s what makes us strong, and frankly, makes our democratic debates messy and often frustrating,” Mr. Obama said. “But ultimately what makes us special is when we summon the ability to see past those differences, and come together around the belief that what binds us together will always be more powerful than what drives us apart.”

Will it work? Republicans are skeptical.

In the Weekly Republican Address, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, senior Republican on the Budget Committee, says, “I fear the Democrat proposal will fail this defining test and will never achieve balance."

"I fear it will crush American workers and our economy with trillions in new taxes, spending and debt,” Sen. Sessions said. “I fear [Senate Budget] Chairman Patty Murray will follow the President's lead: raising taxes to enrich the bureaucracy at the expense of the people."

"Government has never been bigger or more out of control," he went on. Democrats “say the problem is you; they say you are not sending them enough money; they say they have wisely spent every penny. So, you must just send them more. And, if you don't? Well, they won't stop spending, they'll just borrow more. These destructive policies cannot continue. We are at the breaking point."

Just a week ago, Obama was using his regular Saturday broadcast pulpit to blame Republicans for the sequester fiasco.

"Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit," he said then. "They decided that protecting special interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts."

It was the kind of rhetoric he’d used for weeks as he traveled the country campaign-style trying to bend the GOP on new revenues.

When it became clear that wasn’t working, he literally wined and dined groups of Republican lawmakers – at a Washington restaurant and (in the case of House Budget Committee chairman and former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan) at the White House.

“Next week, I’ll attend both the Democratic and Republican party meetings in the Capitol to continue those discussions,” Obama said Saturday.

Obama may have won a clear victory in November, but everything he wants to accomplish his second term – on Saturday he mentioned “critical issues like immigration reform and gun violence” – could stall out if spending and tax issues don’t become unbogged, and soon.

Generally, the President and the administration fare better than Congress and Republicans in public opinion polls.

But despite Friday’s relatively good news on jobs and unemployment, the public (to the extent it pays attention to Washington) is getting weary of the blame-gamesmanship.

This is reflected in the latest survey, which did not bring good news for Obama.

A Reuters/Ipsos online poll out this past week showed 43 percent of people approve of Obama's handling of his job, down 7 percentage points from Feb. 19.

“Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess,” Reuters reported. “This is a pox on everyone's house really," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

Politico noted a half dozen sequester claims made by Obama which turned out to be questionable if not false. “President Barack Obama hopes to spark a pitchfork revolt against Republicans over sequester-induced budget cuts – but many Democrats fret that he’s undermined that effort with an early strategy marred by hype, poor planning, and muddled messaging,” Politico’s Glenn Thrush and Carrie Budoff Brown wrote.

The next few days could show whether his new tack succeeds.

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