Barack Obama

Can President Obama still achieve any of his second-term goals during the remainder of his presidency?

By Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News
November 29, 2013, 6: 00 AM

Second terms have historically been tough ones for presidents. From Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra scandal to Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky affair to Hurricane Katrina during George W. Bush’s second term, U.S. leaders have so often found their second four years going off the rails that it’s known colloquially as the “second-term curse.”

President Obama has been no stranger to this trend. Despite winning reelection, he has had to compromise on many of his priorities or have seen them rejected outright by Congress: letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire; gun control measures; investments in the economy, and quite possibly, immigration reform.

While he doesn’t quite qualify as a lame-duck president – a term reserved for the 10-week period after a successor has been elected – Mr. Obama has seen his ability to set and carry out an agenda significantly curtailed just a year into his second term. Political scientists and scholars tend to point to two reasons for this: an obstinate, Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and the botched roll out of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature legislative achievement.

“It has almost nothing to do with his length of service, his public opinion standings, or the focus shifting to Democrats and Republicans who might replace him,” said Tom Mann, a governance studies expert at the Brookings Institution. “It’s almost entirely a consequence of a Republican House of Representatives and the sort of relentless opposition from the out party.”

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Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and global affairs at Princeton University, offers a take that puts Mr. Obama squarely at the center of his own problems: “He shot himself in the foot with the rollout of [the Affordable Care Act], which undermined any small sliver of strength he would have had.”

None of the experts who spoke to CBS News predicted that Mr. Obama would be able to push much major legislation through Congress during the remaining three years of his presidency between his bad relations with much of the Republican Party and the difficulty for even moderate Republicans to be seen working with him since it might risk angering their base. Mr. Obama’s poll numbers have also dropped precipitously since the launch of HealthCare.gov in October, so he can’t do much to harness public opinion in his favor.

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