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.”
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.”
Perhaps it’s my bias, but I’m with Zelizer. Team Obama had the Republican party on the ropes after the latest government shutdown . . . only to get brought down by the botched implementation of Obamacare. And few other things have gone right for this administration in this first year of the president’s second term. I personally hope that the president recovers his political strength; I don’t think that the country is well-served by a weak president, and I would like to see comprehensive immigration reform finally get signed into law. But there is no denying that President Obama and his team are in a bad place politically, and however much Team Obama wants to blame Republicans for the president’s political predicament, the real blame lies with the man the president sees every time he looks into the mirror.