Obama is sure to tangle with Congress again over spending and taxes as legislators grapple with the next three installments in the continuing ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ drama.
And that will roll right into the broader struggle over tax changes and setting the country on a more sustainable fiscal path, where Obama will have to seek consensus with a Republican-dominated House in which conservatives hold sway and moderates are no longer an endangered species but truly gone, Thurber says.
The president hopes for a ‘‘grand bargain’’ that reduces the deficit over the long term, but the trick is to achieve that goal while safeguarding Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for future generations. A package that does both would go a long way toward expanding the legacy Obama began to build in his first term with action on health care and rescuing the economy.
The president enters his second with a new team taking shape and new strategies to deploy, but also more aware of the challenges inherent in the current atmosphere of polarization.
He describes himself as ‘‘happy warrior’’ ready to do battle anew.
But Calvin Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, says Obama is still ‘‘as much an academic as a politician.’’
‘‘What I don’t think he’s done is learn how to wield the power of the presidency in ways that former presidents have,’’ says Jillson. ‘‘It’s possible that Washington is just too different, and that what was possible for FDR or Lyndon Johnson is simply not possible today, even in light of large Democratic majorities in 2009-2010. Maybe Washington is just a different place.’’
EDITOR'S NOTE — Nancy Benac has covered government and politics in Washington for more than three decades.
Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nbenac
An AP News Analysis