- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ending a two-week vacation, President Obama is appealing to newly-empowered Republicans to resist jockeying for the White House in 2012 and work with him to get the economy growing and the jobless back to work.

Facing anything but a political soft landing after his holiday stay in Hawaii, Mr. Obama told reporters en route to the capital Tuesday that he understands that Republicans, who recaptured the House in last fall’s elections, “are going to play to their base for a certain period of time.”

“But I’m pretty confident that they’re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people and that we are creating a competitive economy for the 21st century,” the president said.

Marine One — with Mr. Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha aboard — landed on the White House lawn about 11:30 a.m., following a nine-hour flight on Air Force One from Hawaii.

As he steps back into the Oval Office, not only does Mr. Obama face an emboldened Republican caucus in Congress, but he also is confronting the first major shake-up of his senior White House staff.

The first weeks of the new year will be an early test of how he will deal with a divided Congress and whether he can build on the victories he secured during the final days of the lame-duck legislative session. And with a host of Republicans readying to run for his job, the administration simultaneously will be laying the groundwork for Mr. Obama’s re-election bid, which will be operated out of Chicago.

Mr. Obama arrived in Washington a day before lawmakers on Capitol Hill reconvene. Republicans, having taken control of the House and boosted their seats in the Senate, are promising to take aim at the president’s agenda, from his spending plans to his health-care overhaul. And they’re not wasting any time.

Republicans in the House are planning to vote on a full repeal of Mr. Obama’s health care law before the president’s State of the Union address later this month. However, Democrats will control the Senate and could thwart the repeal drive. And Mr. Obama has promised to veto a repeal if it reaches his desk. Even so, Republicans say they will try to starve the overhaul of money and dismantle it piece by piece.

Mr. Obama also will face opposition on spending and the debt. Though the president has said the nation’s long-term fiscal health must be addressed, he’s warned that cutting spending now could be disastrous for the fragile economic recovery.

But conservative Republicans, including many newly elected members of Congress, want to cut spending immediately. The first test of how much Mr. Obama is willing to compromise with this wing of the GOP comes in February, when lawmakers have to pass a massive spending bill to keep the government running.

Mr. Obama said he hopes that House Speaker-designate John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, “will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012. And that our job this year is to make sure that we build on recovery.”

But 2012, nevertheless, is fast approaching, and he knows it.

Senior adviser David Axelrod plans to head to Chicago this month, with Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, taking his place at the White House. More staff will follow Mr. Axelrod to Chicago, though aides have not yet been asked to commit to making the move.

Mr. Obama also is considering naming former Commerce Secretary William Daley to a top White House job, possibly chief of staff, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. Mr. Daley, an executive at JPMorgan Chase, would bring extensive private-sector experience to a White House seeking to counter the notion that the president is anti-business.

The person was not authorized to speak publicly on the manner and requested anonymity.

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