Obama Turns on the Charm

President makes nice with members of his own party.

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President Barack Obama walks off of Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, after returning from a Democratic retreat in Annapolis, Md.
President Barack Obama walks off of Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Feb. 6, 2013, after returning from a Democratic retreat in Annapolis, Md.

Suddenly, President Obama has become schmoozer in chief, at least with members of his own party.

He told House Democrats at their annual retreat in Leesburg, Va., that he wants to work closely with them, and expressed a special eagerness to get to know the 49 party members who have just taken office. "I am looking forward to spending time with all 49 of you," he said Thursday. "And hopefully, we'll be seeing you over at the White House and at various events."

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He also had some words of praise for former House Speaker and current top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California. "I love Nancy Pelosi," he gushed. "... She just generates good-looking grandbabies. They're all so handsome and sharp and beautiful."

Obama said that he expected Pelosi to become speaker again "pretty soon," an apparent prediction that the Democrats will regain control of the House in 2014.

President Barack Obama walks off of Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, after returning from a Democratic retreat in Annapolis, Md.
President Barack Obama walks off of Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Feb. 6, 2013, after returning from a Democratic retreat in Annapolis, Md.

Obama tried to project an image of humility after recent criticism that he has been arrogant and too aloof from other political leaders in the capital, especially members of Congress of both parties.

"I'm deeply grateful to have been reelected and humbled by the support that I received from all across the country," Obama said, adding: "The fascinating thing about this job is the longer you're in it, the more humble you get, and the more you recognize your own imperfections.

"And you try to make up with effort and hard work those gaps in your personality or your intelligence that become so apparent to everybody on the daily news every day."

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He said no one in America, including himself, has "a monopoly on wisdom."

Obama was also in schmooze mode on Wednesday when he met with Senate Democrats at their annual retreat in Annapolis, Md.

Obama and his advisers have said on several occasions that his past efforts at outreach haven't paid off, and that he would rather spend time with his wife and two daughters than socialize with legislators. But Thursday he seemed to signal that a charm offensive is underway, even if it only includes fellow Democrats.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.