A year ago President Barack Obama jammed a prediction into his stump speech that evoked his 2008 hope-and-change message — a vow that a victory in 2012 would break the partisan “fever” in Washington.

But behind closed doors, people close to the president tell POLITICO, Obama never quite bought his own rhetoric and was quietly planning for precisely the opposite scenario, perpetual gridlock, during West Wing strategy sessions in the weeks before and after beating Mitt Romney.

Those clashing visions of the second term — the president’s public optimism, shadowed by his dour, private realism — have made the opening act of Obama II something of a muddle, with critics and allies alike wondering if the president has a coherent strategy for retaining influence during what promises to be 3½ maddening years of divided, even schizophrenic, government…

“Obama has 48 months as president, but six months in, the wind has already gone out of his sails.… The public has completely lost interest,” Gergen added.