The administration has run out of political bullets. Unless the Affordable Care Act starts working, and delivering big benefits to more people than are losing their insurance, it can’t do much to improve those sagging poll numbers.

The second sign is that the president actually said he was sorry that some people had gotten the misimpression from him that they could keep their health insurance, when they were actually going to lose their policy and be forced to buy a more expensive one. Conservatives may complain that the apology was inadequate, since the president did not admit that he’d misled people. But this is the first time I can remember this president apologizing like this. It may be sincere. It is also a sign that his administration is backed into a corner. It can’t deny that this is happening, nor can it blame anyone else. What’s left to it are expressions of regret.

Politico reports that the president has also ordered aides to explore administrative fixes for people who are going to be made financially worse off by their cancelled policies. This would probably involve grandfathering all the existing plans. That will create chaos, and may leave the exchanges with a poorer and sicker pool of the folks who couldn’t buy insurance before. It would also mean conceding that the administration made a grave mistake when it drew the regulations for grandfathered plans so narrowly.

But until the exchanges start working, this is all the Obama administration has in the political arsenal. It may not be enough. But from the administration’s point of view, it’s probably better than nothing.