It is almost a truism that second terms are less successful than first terms, especially domestically. Franklin Delano Roosevelt lost his hold on Congress with his 1937 plan to pack the Supreme Court. Ronald Reagan faced the 1986 Iran-contra scandal. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate in 1974. …

One is that presidents try to push their best ideas when they first take office, often leaving them, he said, without “a whole new set of ideas” for the second.

Presidents also select the best members of the White House staff or cabinet when they first take office. When the pressure cooker of Washington or better jobs lead those first choices away, their successors are often not their equals. …

Second-term presidents are also lame ducks, parrying ambitious would-be successors in the opposition and in their own party. Dwight Eisenhower often complained of the recently enacted 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms. But earlier presidents faced the same problem, because tradition back to George Washington had established the same term limit, until Roosevelt ran for his third term.