Obama launches outreach strategy to sway GOP legislators

President Barack Obama is changing his legislative strategy after an increasingly effective GOP leadership has blocked his efforts to expand government and boost tax bills.

Obama has invited roughly 12 of the 45 GOP senators to dinner at the D.C.’s Jefferson hotel on Wednesday, and he’s slated visit the GOP and Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate next Thursday.

That’s a sharp turnout for Obama, who has eschewed face-to-face persuasion with GOP and Democratic legislators since 2009.

It also marks a hiatus — and perhaps an end — to the crisis-talks strategy Obama adopted after the GOP took control of the House in 2011.

Since 2011, the president has used last-minute budget crisis talks to pressure the GOP to make concessions. The high-profile talks were designed to maximize media pressure on the GOP’s leaders, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Obama’s crisis strategy had partial successes in the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis and in the December 2012 “fiscal cliff” crisis. For example, Obama claimed he won a 10-year, $600 billion tax-increase on upper-income Americans in the December fight, but the GOP also permanently established the low middle-class tax-rates won by President George W. Bush in 2001.

The crisis-talks strategy failed this February, when GOP leaders shrugged off Obama’s pressure for another crisis meeting to stop the sequestration cuts of roughly 1 percent from 2013 federal spending.

As his high-pressure pitch failed in February, his poll ratings also tumbled, according to Gallup’s tracker. His post-election honeymoon bumped him up to 56 percent approval, but that score dipped back to 50 percent by late February, and even down to 46 percent in the first three days of March.

That approval rating is especially important, because it is a good indicator of his ability to sway the next election — the 2014 midterms. Without a high approval rating, there’s little chance that he can regain a House majority, and little reason for the House GOP to fear his threats or pass his legislative priorities.

But his new forays to the Hill, and the meetings with GOP senators, may increase his poll ratings, because swing-voting Americans want to see their leaders cooperating.