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President Obama Received Well by Republicans After Meetings

Barack Obama to visit Georgia pre-k centerWashington insiders who thrive on political drama are enthralled this week by the efforts of President Obama to reach out to Congressional Republicans with kindness after years of using a much more confrontational and combative stance with the conservatives in the opposition party. From all indications, Obama’s charm offensive seems to be working—or at least the Republicans have been saying nice things about him, which is also a big change from previous years.

After meeting on Wednesday night with 12 Republicans senators for a dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, down the street from the White House, the president had a lunch of vegetable lentil soup and sea bass yesterday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee and his vice presidential opponent in the November election, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel.

The participants in the meeting came out saying nice and hopeful-sounding things about the President, though nobody is expecting any miracles.

“I don’t think anyone left there with any anticipation that over the next month or six weeks anything is going to happen,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who attended the dinner. “I think the goal would be to make something happen over the next four or five months.

White House officials say this is all part of the President’s effort to see if there’s common ground he might be able to find with rank-and-file Senate members on the budget impasse. Now that the election is over and the sequester cuts have been ordered, the White House feels there is time and space for the two sides to perhaps get something bigger done.

“For the first time in a while there is not a terrible looming budget deadline or a looming election,” the administration official told the Huffington Post. “There is no countdown clock on MSNBC, no one wondering how much time there is on a legislative calendar to pass a fix.”

Of course, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have complained over the years that Obama doesn’t do enough schmoozing with Congress. But considering how much Republicans in Congress gleefully report to their constituents every time they oppose the president or make him look bad, Obama never had much incentive to make nice with lawmakers from the other side of the aisle.

“It’s going to be hard,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “I do not want to in any way to suggest that this is a sure thing. It is far from that.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, California) said the meetings were important.

“I think it’s important that they all get to know each other better,” she said.

Asked whether meeting with the President might cause him problems with his Republican constituents, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is up for reelection next year, brushed off worries about a backlash.

“If I can’t go have dinner with the President of the United States to talk about the problems that face our nation,” he said, “I shouldn’t be running.”

After the dinner, Republican Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska had some advice for President Obama.

“As an avid golfer, the President knows that one of the most important parts of the swing is the follow through,” Johanns said in a statement. “The same holds true here as well.”

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