President Obama will extend a hand to his political antagonists during a visit to a House Republican retreat Friday in Baltimore.
But the exchange -- part of his election-year attempt to generate more bipartisanship in Washington -- is unlikely to change Republican behavior, say strategists and former members of Congress from both parties.
"Republicans are emboldened. They think Obama has overshot the runway, and they're going to stick with their strategy," said Scott Reed, a Republican consultant.
Increasingly confident of their prospects in the wake of the Massachusetts Senate win, Republicans remain disinclined to give ground in policy debates and appear willing to stick with their approach of near unanimous opposition to major initiatives unless Democrats offer significant concessions.
As they left Washington for the three-day strategy session, Republican leaders did not seem to be in a very compromising frame of mind.
"House Republicans will seize the opportunity in respectful terms, but candid and frank terms, and make it clear to the president that we have better solutions," said Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the House Republican Conference.
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the minority leader, said Obama had "decided to just double-down on his job-killing agenda," while ignoring the angry voter message behind recent Republican victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts. He said Republicans would try to find common ground with Obama, "but we're not going to roll over on our principles."
Heading into this year's congressional campaigns, Republican fundraising and recruitment have picked up. National opinion surveys show steady improvement in the party's prospects. And independent analysts predict that Democrats could lose dozens of House seats and, possibly, majority control of the chamber in the first mid-term election of Obama's presidency.
For now, at least, Republicans have little incentive to cooperate. Only three of the 37 most competitive House races in 2010 feature a Democratic challenge to a Republican incumbent, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. The greatest electoral threat Republican officials face is a backlash from their party's conservative wing, where anti-Obama sentiment is most intense. Maine's Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, "caught hell from the Republican base" after they voted for the Democratic stimulus plan last year, said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia.
Heightened partisanship has made it more difficult for presidents of both parties to govern over the past 20 years. Democrats and Republicans have made sporadic efforts to enlist cross-party cooperation, with limited success.
Obama's attempts to woo Republicans could be constrained by growing restiveness within the president's own party. His pitch, during the State of the Union address, for building a new generation of nuclear power plants and possibly expanding offshore oil and gas drilling won immediate Republican approval but fell flat with Democratic liberals. "It is in the president's interests, politically and probably governmentally, to try to get some Republican cooperation and some Republican buy-in," said Davis, a former head of the Republican congressional campaign committee.
The New York Times contributed to this report.