President Obama to Republicans: I won

President Obama took questions from the White House press corps for the better part of 50 minutes on Monday morning but the entire message of his news conference could be summed up in two words: I won.

Time and again, Obama referenced the 2012 election as a validation of his approach to governance -- from how the debt ceiling shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip to the possibility of a government shutdown.

A few examples:

* "I intend to carry out the agenda that I campaigned on -- an agenda for new jobs, new opportunity, and new security for the middle class."

* "If we want to have a conversation about how to reduce our deficit, let’s have that. We’ve been having that for the last two years. We just had an entire campaign about it. And by the way, the American people agreed with me, that we should reduce our deficits in a balanced way, that also takes into account the need for us to grow this economy, and put people back to work."

* "[Republicans have] got a particular view of what government should do and should be. And, you know, that view was rejected by the American people when it was debated during the presidential campaign."

Democrats will applaud Obama's emphasis on the election results as a clear indicator that the American public favors his approach to reducing the country's debt.

Republicans will push back that while Obama won the election the result can't simply be used as a catch-all explanation for why they should line up behind his proposals. (Was raising the debt ceiling really a hot topic of the 2012 election?)

Viewed broadly, Obama's emphasis on his November victory suggests that the days of him trying to accomodate Republicans are over. (Many Republicans insist those days never existed in the first place.)

The lesson he clearly learned in his first term -- and which he had affirmed during the course of the campaign -- is that the only way to get what he wants in legislative fights with Congress is to constantly stay on offense message-wise. (In politics as in sports the best defense is often a good offense. See Patriots, New England.)

What Obama did in the press conference then was to dare congressional Republicans to cross him and, by association, the people who helped him to a 332-electoral vote victory two months ago.

Elections have consequences, Obama was saying to Republicans. It's up to you guys if you want to ignore that fact.

Over to you, GOP.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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Aaron Blake · January 14, 2013

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