Obama Strengthened for Now

President displays resolve in not giving in to GOP hard-liners.

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President Barack Obama sits with Speaker of the House John Boehner during a meeting with congressional leaders in the White House on Nov. 16, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

President Obama emerges from his budget victory this week with a stronger hand as he heads into the next round of political fights in Washington.

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What's helping Obama in particular is the new perception that he is willing to stick to his guns. He demonstrated the ability to take a tough stand against his adversaries even when he was under enormous pressure to cave in. And this image of resolve is expected to help him in future showdowns with the Republicans regarding immigration, farm legislation, climate change regulations, health care and economic policy. Up to now, many legislators considered Obama a weak bargainer and a vacillating leader; now they have clear evidence that he isn't a pushover, Democratic strategists say.

After accepting a congressional deal that ended Washington's embarrassing economic crisis for now, and largely on his own terms, Obama blamed the mess on Republican conservatives allied with the tea party. He said they stubbornly forced a partial government shutdown and threatened to allow a government default unless Obama weakened his signature health care law, known as Obamacare.

Using his presidential bully pulpit to good effect, Obama declined to give in, and blasted the GOP day after day. In the end, the Republicans blinked.

"To say we as Republicans left a lot on the table would be one of the biggest understatements in American political history," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Twitter.

On Thursday, Obama acknowledged what many opinion polls have shown in the past few weeks when he said, "The American people are completely fed up with Washington." And Republicans get most of the blame, according to the polls. Only 13 percent of Americans approve of the job Republicans are doing in Congress and 24 percent approve of the job Democrats are doing, according to the latest survey by Zogby Analytics.

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But Obama's resolve will soon be tested again, because this week's deal accepted by the House, Senate and Obama was only a temporary fix. It funds the government through Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7.

Democrats still want to hike taxes on the rich and on major corporations and limit spending cuts. Republicans don't want to raise taxes and they seek deeper cuts in spending in an effort to reduce the federal deficit and slash federal power. Hard-line GOP legislators are still looking for every opportunity to gut or weaken Obama's health care law.

These disagreements will persist, and they are same divisions that caused the 16-day government shutdown and nearly resulted in a failure by Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

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 "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership."  Ken Walsh can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.

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