What made last week’s gaffe so memorable was not that it was out of character for this president, but that his political position has eroded since he made any of those old gaffes. In 2008, he could stick his foot in his mouth about small town Pennsylvania and not pay a political price for it because he was not responsible in any way for the region’s economic decline. But could you imagine if he said that now?…

The ironic thing about all this is that Barack Obama is now actually paying for mistakes that he made when people were praising him as the next FDR! Give a careful read to Sean Trende’s article from yesterday about what Obama could have done differently in 2009. That was the moment when his political power was at its apex – and the choices he made set the path for the rest of his tenure. Back then, the president had a real opportunity to build a relatively broad consensus to deal with the recession. He chose not to do that. Instead, he passed an ill-conceived stimulus, then proceeded to focus on health care, without regard to whether the economy was actually recovering. It actually wasn’t, and the country responded in November 2010 by electing enough Republicans to stop the president in his tracks, and there he has stayed for the last 20 months.

So now, President Obama’s fate is really out of his hands. Instead, it comes down to three things: How much the economy grows over the next five months; what the Supreme Court does with Obamacare; and finally whether Mitt Romney can persuade Americans that he’d do a better job over the next four years. For all the power that the 44th president had a few years ago, he’s now little more than a spectator, waiting and watching like the rest of us to see what happens next.