Budget tweaks do not a legacy make. Just ask former President Bill Clinton. Budget battles dominated the Clinton presidency for the entirety of his first term and a large part of his second term. He raised income tax rates and is the last president to preside over a balanced budget. But this achievement cannot be said to have defined the Clinton presidency, particularly since both the tax rates and the balanced budget were undone by his immediate successor. Budget battles rarely constitute a legacy achievement.

Obama wants to be able to sign major social reforms into law on the scale of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. However unpopular Johnson was at the close of his first and only full elected term in office, his achievements ensured that the judgment of history would at least be measured if not kind.

The president and his opponents in Congress know he is running out of time. As they always do, exogenous factors will soon interrupt Obama’s pursuit of a domestic legacy achievement. A European debt crisis or an Iranian nuclear breakout could derail Obama’s legislative goals with little warning.

More than just time is on Republicans’ side. Shockingly, public opinion is as well. Despite a headline which employs the misdirection of your average Penn & Teller performance, USA Today, partnering with Pew Research Center, released a poll today that showed Republicans have some leverage on budget issues