“The president has been criticized by many people for his inability or unwillingness to spend a lot of time stroking members of Congress,” says Ross Baker, a congressional historian at Rutgers University who is writing a book on bipartisanship in the US Senate. “I think a lot of this is based upon the widely-accepted theory [that the] power of a presidency is the power to persuade – which is perfectly plausible, and it was certainly plausible in the 1950s.... The problem is, there are no persuadables" today.
But by focusing on issues of common ground with the GOP, Washington could generate some bipartisan successes in the next four years.
For one, the president could team up with Republican moderates and much of the party’s leadership on immigration reform.
“We believe that immigration reform is different in that it has a past, present, and future of bipartisan support,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “What we’ve seen over the last two years is conservatives, moderates, and liberals want this president and this Congress to act, and that’s different from any other issue.”
And the president could perhaps turn down the bellicosity on the Hill by working with some of his loudest critics (though risking the ire of environmentalists in his political base) in one area that the deeply-red right and the president could agree: energy policy.
“We were encouraged by President Obama’s 2012 campaign comments supporting an all-of-the-above agenda on energy, and his statements outlining support for oil and natural gas,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s powerful trade association, in his annual State of American Energy address in Washington earlier this month.
But Republicans rage about a disconnect between what the president and members of his administration say they favor and what Republicans say is foot-dragging in building the Keystone XL pipeline, exporting natural gas, or freeing up more offshore areas for energy exploration. If the president were to get behind any of these initiatives he’d likely have plenty of GOP support – but that remains a large “if.”