In my view, there’s little reason to believe that the president wants such a grand bargain—or at least that he wants it enough to jeopardize his second-term political strategy. That plan? To win back the House of Representatives for Democrats, with heavy Obama involvement, by portraying Republicans once again as extremists. As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, Obama intends “to articulate for the American electorate his own feelings — an exasperation with an opposition party that blocks even the most politically popular elements of his agenda.” Then, having secured control of Congress, the president can consolidate and build on his implementation of the progressive agenda he began in his first term and laid out in his second inaugural and most recent State of the Union Address.
A grand bargain with Republicans makes such a case impossible. The president won’t agree to any deal without additional “revenues” of some kind. If Republicans were to be a part of any such compromise, something that would overshadow his other potential policy accomplishments, it would be difficult for the president to suggest that they’re simply obstructionist ideologues.
It’s far more likely that the real target of President Obama’s “charm offensive” isn’t Republicans but the journalists who cover such matters. It’s a bank shot. By “reaching out” to Republicans, he is attempting to position himself as the “reasonable” party in Washington even if his big ask—additional revenues—is something Republicans already gave him as part of the fiscal cliff deal.