WASHINGTON (AP) --Four years ago, President Barack Obama and his staff spent the first day in the White House learning the basics. Not just the basics of governing, but also figuring out how to get cleared into their offices by the Secret Service, log on to their computers and find keys to unlock office drawers.
They solved those problems long ago. Also in the rearview mirror are the recession, the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
But plenty of fresh challenges lie ahead as the president begins the first working day of his second term.
Obama will quickly confront three fiscal deadlines that demand cooperation with Congress, including raising the debt ceiling. The deaths of three Americans in Algeria have renewed fears about terrorism in North Africa.
The looming question over Obama's entire second term is whether he can find a way to quell his confrontations with a divided Congress. Seeking to start off on a better foot, the president invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the White House ahead of his inaugural address Monday, including the Republican leaders with whom he has frequently been at odds: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Speaking to the throngs gathered on the National Mall Monday, Obama implored Washington to find common ground when it can.
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," Obama said.
Seeking to build on the wave of public support that catapulted him to two terms in the White House, the president pressed for the public to get help him "set this country's course." Tellingly, Obama sent an email shortly after his speech asking supporters to send their contact information to Organizing for Action. That's the outside group formed by several top Obama campaign officials with the goal of supporting his legislative agenda.
We'll likely hear more talk about cooperation at Tuesday's National Prayer Service. President Obama knows since Republicans still control the House, he can't get anything mayor done without help from some Republicans.
Republicans know they came out of the November elections needing to change their image. Opposing the president on just about everything may please the base of their party, but it turns off the people in the middle who usually decide national elections.
The president also made a point yesterday of saying it's time to dial back the rhetoric a bit. Some of the biggest applause came when Obama said, "We cannot treat name-calling as reasoned debate." All the polls show most Americans are really sick of that talk, but some of the language that turns off people in the middle helps both parties when it come to raising money. So it's unlikely all the name-calling will go away.
One area on which both parties could find common ground is immigration reform. Republicans know they've lost ground with Hispanic voters and can't win elections without them. So, expect to see some in the GOP try to work with the president. The ones who favor reform are frustrated because they realize if they'd okayed President Bush's immigration plan a few years ago, their party would have gotten credit for trying to straighten it out.
Associated Press contributed to this report.