The first months of President Obama’s second term are being built around a simple premise: No caving.

From the sequester to immigration reform to the broader debate about the role of government in American life, Obama is in an ultra-assertive mood, practically daring Republicans to defy his wishes.

It is a clear change for a president who, during his first term, faced criticism from his left flank for being too conciliatory toward the GOP on healthcare reform and, later, during deficit battles. Liberal voices argued that Obama was mistaken in thinking the Republicans had any real interest in finding common ground.

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