The president is flexing his political muscles, and he looks pretty buff right now.

His political acumen has sharpened with experience. Instead of playing an inside Washington game, as he did last year, where the vocabulary of the debate was abstract and the terms often set by others, Obama is taking his campaign for debt reduction to the American people, using the formidable skills of his campaign apparatus.

Instead of abstractions like “grand bargain” and “fiscal cliff,” Obama is framing the first decision on reducing the debt in simple terms. Who should shoulder new taxes? The middle class or the wealthy?

Many Republicans have gotten his message and are breaking their pledge to never raise taxes. The import of this should not be underestimated; this is a party that hasn't forgotten the beating it took when Bush Sr. broke his “read my lips” pledge.

It may have been a necessary tactical retreat to allow for a regroup, but it is a significant retreat nonetheless.