From NBC's Charlie Warzel
A bipartisan group of congressmen reacted to President Obama's State of the Union and surveyed the 2012 landscape at a "Mapping the Congress" event at the Newseum yesterday, hosted by Politico.
Democrats, including Reps. Jim Clyburn (SC) and Steve Israel (NY), said Obama was "pitch-perfect" at the State of the Union. Republican Mike Pence, who's considering a run for president, said he appreciated the president’s “affirmation of what makes this country great.”
But Pence offered this caution: “In Washington, the devil is always in the details." He went on to note, “All his [Obama’s] answers called for bigger government. This is the challenge.”
As the conversation veered toward the coming year, both Republicans and Democrats appeared cautiously optimistic that the recent push for civility and bipartisan cooperation could withstand the coming hurdles.
"The change you will see will be in civility and the manner of debate,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R) said.
Republicans and Democrats both stressed the importance of job creation and hinted toward finding common ground on the issue of tax reform.
"Both sides can agree it's [the tax code] too complicated” said Israel (D-N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democrats' election arm of the House. But, Israel warned, “the hard climb will be identifying what provisions to reform.”
Freshman Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) also expressed hope that “the divided government can create an opportunity to accomplish some hard things.”
Looking toward the 2012 political season all eyes were on Pence, who has vowed to announce his plans to run for either president or Indiana governor by the end of this month. He ducked questions about his future plans, while sticking to his end-of-the-month timeline and citing his family as his biggest consideration. "The highest office I’ll serve is husband and father,” he said.
Israel said Democrats are ready and wasting no time preparing for 2012. “We started recruiting on Day One after the election,” he said.
McCarthy made this early prediction for 2012: "I think House GOP will gain seats in 2012. It’s too early to tell how many, but we've got good potential."
Israel, however, made it clear he is aiming for double-digit Democratic takeovers with his emphatic slogan, "Drive for 25."
The three-hour panel was also not without its lighter moments. Blunt shared a story about his recently adopted puppy; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) chronicled his downtime and daily commute from Wilmington, DE, something Vice President Biden before him also did as senator.
Coons concluded with an anecdote about his frequent Wii matches with his son. "My son's trash-talking abilities have improved," he said, "along with his ability to beat me in Madden.”