George W. Bush+Barack Obama

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By Amie Parnes – 11/16/13 06:00 AM EST

President Obama ran in 2008 as the polar opposite of President George W. Bush, promising to bring competence and change to Washington.

Five years later, Obama finds himself with poll numbers strikingly similar to those of his predecessor at this point in his presidency, and with real worries that all of the hopes for his second term are over.

The focal point of the president’s problems is ObamaCare, the legislative centerpiece of his first term. The worry for the White House is that persistent problems with the rollout could define his presidency the way the Iraq War and the Katrina response defined Bush’s.

The fall of 2005 led to a terrible 2006 for Bush, who saw his party lose majorities in the House and Senate that fall. Democrats worry 2014 could be a tough year for Obama that could conclude with them losing the Senate.

Supporters of Obama acknowledge certain parallels and worry that the latest rash of healthcare headlines will not only tarnish the second term, but the president’s legacy.

“The elements of hope and change just aren’t there,” said one former senior administration official, who worked on the campaign and went on to work in the Obama White House.

At the same time, they insist it’s not over for Obama and that he has time to turn things around.

“I’d much rather be in this situation right now than what Bush faced around the same time of his presidency,” one former senior administration official said.

“Look, the healthcare launch is no doubt the worst rollout of a website in the history of the Internet,” the former senior official said. “But this is fixable.”

“Katrina dealt with loss of life with people in miserable conditions,” the former official added. “This is not that. Not at all.”

One senior administration official disputed the characterization that the White House was in “hair on fire” mode.

“Once this gets fixed, millions of people are going to have healthcare,” one senior administration official said.

“I think that’s a little different than thousands of lives being destroyed,” the official said, referring to the 1,833 direct or indirect deaths stemming from Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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