"Now, he has stared down the House GOP and they have capitulated, showing that he’s in charge"

Boehner knew the year-end fight to renew the payroll tax would be bad — but he couldn’t possibly have anticipated how bad it would get. Obama always knew the fight would be good for him — but not this good. It got the president not only the tax cut he wanted but provided a jolt for Democrats anxious about 2012 who felt Obama had been played by House Republicans in earlier negotiations.

For the first time since they lost the House in 2010, Democrats see a president who likes to play hardball. And for the first time since they won election, freshman Republicans know what it feels like to be on the losing end of a Washington deal, literally silenced by their leaders.

“A core part of a president’s leadership is his ability to show he’s in charge and that he’s leading, rather than being led,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the White House. “One problem for him in the first two years is that he had to run with Congress because it was controlled by Democrats, and too often it seemed that they were pulling him rather than he was leading them.