President Obama’s unguarded comments on a live mic with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, about how he will have “more flexibility” to deal on such issues as missile defense after the U.S. elections, are a statement of fact.

Presidents who are no longer running for office in a second term have the opportunity to concentrate on legacy issues. It was in President Ronald Reagan’s second term that he signed a landmark agreement with the Russians on eliminating an entire category of nuclear weapons in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. But that was then, and this is now.

With the Russians still talking tough on their objections to the anti-missile shield only two months away from the NATO summit in Chicago, it’s no surprise that Obama is looking for “more space” from the Kremlin. He will be meeting the Russian past-and-future president, Vladimir Putin, at Camp David during the G-8, but unless there is an unexpected breakthrough, it’s unlikely there will be progress before the NATO meeting. That leaves the president with an uphill task to portray success in his home town at the NATO summit, which is likely to be dominated by Afghanistan.

Influential House Republicans in Congress immediately accused Obama of seeking a deal with Russia that would not stand up to electoral scrutiny. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said that “Congress has made exquisitely clear to your administration and to other nations that it will block all attempts to weaken U.S. missile defenses.”

But beyond the ongoing trial of strength with Congress, it’s interesting that Obama was talking about a post-election situation. "This is my last election ... After my election I have more flexibility," Obama said to Medvedev.

So here is a president confident of reelection in eight months’ time. But a lot can happen between now and November, and Obama’s polling numbers are not great. It’s a close race. In fact, according to Rasmussen, he would lose by two points to Mitt Romney in the presidential election, if the former governor is selected as the Republican nominee.