Obama’s point about pushing legislation that enjoys clear public backing is key, said George C. Edwards, political science professor at Texas A&M University and author of “Overreach: Leadership in the Obama Presidency.” Based on his research, Edwards wrote that presidents who attempted to create or alter public thinking about policy ran into trouble, but those who understood how to exploit existing public opinion to achieve legislative goals proved more successful…

In other words, Obama barely managed to move legislative changes that Americans thought they understood and favored. Dueling with congressional Republicans over policies that divide Americans carries long odds.

“There is no evidence here now and in the recent past of his persuading anybody,” Edwards noted of Obama’s legislative record since 2011. Since Republicans took control of the House, Obama has been able to pass major legislation when he can maximize enthusiasm among Americans for initiatives they value, understand and favor — such as requiring the wealthy to pay higher taxes. “He’s talking about things that people already agree with, and that’s different than trying to move people, say from neutral to his side,” Edwards told RCP.