It wasn’t terribly difficult for Obama to gauge his political capital four years ago — when he entered office with a two-house Democratic majority, imploding economy and a sky-high approval rating.
He had a clear mandate for action then. But how far can he push Congress this time?
If he thinks too big, he risks alienating the Hill Democrats who will increasingly control his fate — and overstepping his electoral mandate. Think too small and Obama threatens to tarnish his legacy for audacity by playing school-uniform small ball as Clinton did — while turning off his base of liberal supporters who already doubt his willingness to fight their battles.
Any Democrat who thinks Obama will be bolder in his second term is “on something — I think they’re smoking something,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “I haven’t seen this liberalism, so to think that President Obama would ride back into office with all these liberal programs is to ignore his story in the Illinois state Senate, his time in the U.S. Senate and his first term as president.”