On a Friday night in January, the White House released a photo of Obama sitting with President George H.W. Bush and his son former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during a friendly get-together in the Oval Office.
About the only former Republican president who has taken heat from Obama is Rutherford B. Hayes, who Obama said questioned the usefulness of the telephone in the 1870s (something Hayes' presidential center disputed).
But Reagan — beloved by Republicans of all stripes — is the one who gets special billing lately as Obama works to cobble together a winning coalition from across the political spectrum.
For Obama, there's irony in his frequent Reagan references. In his 1995 book, "Dreams of My Father," Obama wrote that when he told classmates of his decision to become a community organizer in Chicago in 1983, he would "pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds."
Now, Obama doesn't use "Reagan" and "dirty deeds" in the same sentence. At St. Patrick's Day events during his presidency, Obama has pointed to the friendship Reagan shared with Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill, both of whom "knew how to work together to find common ground."
In the heat of midterm elections in September 2010, Obama pointed to Reagan as a model of bipartisanship, telling an audience in Parma, Ohio, that Reagan "was willing to help save Social Security for future generations, working with Democrats."
During last summer's prolonged debt ceiling negotiations, Obama noted that Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times. And in September, he put Reagan forth as a model for immigration reform, saying he "understood that immigration was an important part of the American experience. Right now, you have not that kind of leadership coming from the Republican Party."
Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Obama's frequent mentioning of Reagan and other GOP presidents has become a "major basis of his campaign," aimed "not to show himself as a moderate, but to paint the contemporary Republican Party as one that is really now an insurgent outlier."
Beyond that, there may be a more basic reason to emulate Reagan. As Obama seeks re-election, he is aware of a Reagan trait that every presidential incumbent covets: In 1984, Reagan won 49 states.
Associated Press writer Jack Gillum contributed to this report.
Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.