The White House's campaign to rebuild ties with corporate America gets the ultimate photo opportunity Monday when President Obama crosses Lafayette Park and steps into the imposing headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The gesture may surprise Americans who recall that Obama, just four months ago, said the group may have used foreign money to air ads attacking Democrats, or that a senior aide called the Chamber's political tactics a "threat to our democracy."
And the applause certain to fill the ornate Hall of Flags inside the cavernous Chamber building might seem jarring given the tens of millions of dollars the group spent to fight Obama's signature health-care overhaul and deliver the House majority to the Republicans.
Both sides are eager to show a new era of warm feelings, with the Chamber in need of bipartisan bona fides and Obama seeking credibility with centrist voters and corporate donors as he ramps up his reelection campaign.
But Monday is also likely to show that tensions remain close to the surface.
Obama, even as he calls for cooperation on a range of issues such as revamping the corporate tax code, passing a South Korea free-trade deal and fixing the nation's schools, will reiterate his defense of the new restrictions on insurance companies that make up the core of the health-care law that the Chamber wants repealed. And he will implore corporations to spend the profits that many are stockpiling.
Previewing his Chamber remarks in his Saturday radio address, Obama said he will tell company executives that they have an "obligation" to "hire our workers, and pay decent wages, and invest in the future of this nation."
Chamber officials, meanwhile, say that they still expect their campaign spending next year to exceed the group's $50 million budget of 2010. They say their organization does not get involved in presidential politics. If spending follows the 2010 model, however, it will go almost entirely toward helping the GOP extend its House margin and possibly win control of the Senate. That effort could have the additional effect of mobilizing Republican voters in presidential battlegrounds such as Florida and Virginia, which are expected to have competitive Senate races.
Read more at The Washington Post.