TODAY   |  January 26, 2013

Does Obama have political capital to pass gun control?

In Obama’s inaugural address, he said he wanted to use his second term to get big things done. MSNBC’s political analyst Mark Halperin suggests more can be done if the president first works in small stages, rather than taking on the big issues all at once. “Better to go for the measures that can gain momentum,” he told TODAY’s Lester Holt.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> mark halpern is a senior political analyst for msnbc as well as "time" magazine.

>> good morning.

>> want to pick up what we heard at the end of the story. we don't want this to be another health care . that did take a lot of political capital . some say the administration took its eye off the economy ball at the time. with the gun debate, is there the risk of expending, again, too much political capital at the expense of immigration? over some other big-ticket things he wants to deal with?

>> there is that risk. but as we saw in the inaugural address , he wants to use the second term to get big things done. things like immigration, deficit reduction, immigration, things that he talked about all along. this is a new issue, the gun control issue. we're about to see the biggest effort ever by a president and a vice president to try to change america's gun control laws. it's going to take some time. i think the president will stick with it through at least this year.

>> they're taking the message on the road. we've seen this a lot lately. is that because it works?

>> the inside game isn't going work on this one. the president needs more -- reaching people directly, neighbor-to-neighbor contact, emails to try to get public opinion really changed. it can backfire. you go to a member of congress' state and tell your member of congress to vote different than he -- he or she might want to, that can backfire. this is obama/biden politics going forward now. going outside of washington to try to change public opinion and remake how people think about issues. gun control , as i said, biggest effort ever to try to change the gun control laws. doesn't mean it's going to work, but the president and the vice president are going to try.

>> senator feinstein said it well, it's an uphill road. will the administration lower its expectations? you know, maybe concentrate on the background checks and not so much the assault weapon ban?

>> the background checks are enormously popular and clearly have a better chance of passage. what it seems based on what vice president biden emphasized yesterday and what some on capitol hill are saying, better to get the so-called low-hanging fruit. better to go for the measures that could build some popularity. and maybe some momentum. pass those and then maybe come back. the president feels passionately about this issue. any parent can look at his face when he talks about newtown and know for him it's personal, and it's important. and the best way to channel that desire for him is to get some victories and then again maybe build momentum. trying to pass a big package with a ban on some weapons which is a hot button could cause the effort to collapse. he doesn't want that.

>> before you get away, someone who covered the -- the 2008 campaign, the president and secretary of state hillary clinton , peering on "60 minutes" this weekend. here's a clip of her talking about the fact that, of course, they were opponents. want your thoughts after this.

>> a few years ago it would have been seen as improbable because we had that very long, hard primary campaign. but you know, i've gone around the world on behalf of the president and our country. and one of the things that i say to people because i think it helps them understand, i say, look, in politics and in democracy, sometimes you win elections, sometimes you lose elections. and i worked very hard, but i lost. and then president obama asked me to be secretary of state. and i said yes. and why did he ask me and why did i say yes? because we both love our country.

>> interesting to hear her talk about that now four years in. i'm sure they're close. was it awkward at the start of the relationship?

>> extraordinarily awkward. the 2008 campaign in the end dominated by their relationship and the arc of their coming together. 2012 sort of dominated by president clinton and his relationship with barack obama changing over time . now a lot of people are looking at the interviewer and saying 2016 , was that meant to represent kind of a laying on hands by barack obama , to say i want this to be my successor? not necessarily joe biden still out there, but the arc of those two from rivals, friends in the senate, then rivals in the presidential campaign trail, and now working together for four years, really one of the more interesting human political stories we've seen in the last generation.

>> you think they're close now?

>> there's no doubt in my mind that that is a genuine relationship. it's not just of political convenience. when hillary clinton says we do this because we love america, some people say that's -- that's corny. that's exactly the way she feels about her service and why for the last four years she was willing to work with someone who, as she said, she had such a bitter fight with on the campaign trail.

>> good to talk to you. thank you very much.

>>> ahead, the mother who set