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A bipartisan surge for Obama's second term? Most Americans doubt it.

On eve of Obama's 'fiscal cliff' meeting with Republicans, a new poll shows that only one-third of Americans say his administration will be able to 'heal political divisions' in the US. That's down from 54 percent in 2008.

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President Obama gestures as he answers a question during his press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday. Mr. Obama maintained to the press that he has lots of 'good relationships' on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Faced with criticism that he doesn’t reach out enough to both political allies and foes, President Obama maintained in his press conference Wednesday that he has lots of “good relationships” on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle, though he promised some “self-reflection” over how he can do better.

Then Mr. Obama also threw out a warning: “There are probably going to be still some very sharp differences,” he said. “And as I said during the campaign, there are going to be times where there are fights. And I think those are fights that need to be had.”

With negotiations set to begin Friday with Republican leaders over how to keep the nation from going over a “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1 – tax increases plus deep spending cuts – it’s easy to see why Obama would inject that caveat. He is adamant that the wealthiest Americans pay higher taxes and that the remaining 98 percent don’t.  

If Obama is optimistic, he isn’t showing it. But the American people clearly are not. Four years ago, right after a campaign that was all about hope and change, 54 percent of Americans said they thought the Obama administration would be able to “heal political divisions in this country.” Now, that number is 33 percent, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday.

Of the 13 goals that Gallup asked about, healing partisanship was seen with the least optimism – and registered the sharpest decline in optimism of all the issues polled. Optimism has risen on bringing home US troops from Afghanistan (now 72 percent, up from 58 percent) and on keeping the US safe from terrorism (now 65 percent, up from 62 percent). But on most issues, including the environment and unemployment, optimism has declined.

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