By Amie Parnes - 11/28/13 06:00 AM EST
President Obama hasn’t made a dent in his second-term legislative agenda and has seen his poll numbers plummet in a difficult first year of his second term.
For the first time in his presidency, fewer Americans trust and like him, raising serious questions, even among his supporters, about whether he can make anything of his final three years in office.
“There's no way to fudge it, it's been a pretty bleak year for the president,” said one former senior administration official. “It hasn't been victory after victory. In fact, the bright spots have been hard to discern.”
As bad as things have been, however, Obama has a handful of things to be thankful for, and hopeful that he can still turn around his second term.
1) The economy
Obama can say he’s presided over an economy that is moving in the right direction, even if the growth has been painfully slow.
Stock markets are at record highs, corporate profits are rising and the unemployment rate has fallen.
In seeking to pivot the discussion from the botched rollout of ObamaCare to the economy, the White House has highlighted these gains. They’ve also reminded Democrats worried about the 2014 midterms that in the end, the economy is the number one issue for voters.
There are economic worries for the White House, however.
Market gains are mostly seen as a reaction to the Fed’s monetary policies, which are expected to continue because of the central bank’s underlying fears about the strength of the recovery.
In addition, economic gains are not being shared. While risking stocks are helping the one percent, job growth remains bleak.
Still, it’s a far cry from economic freefall Obama inherited in 2009.
“America has gone farther, recovered faster, than most other industrialized nations,” Obama said Tuesday at DreamWorks.
2) Harry Reid
The Senate Majority Leader injected POTUS with a significant boost last week when he went nuclear, gutting the minority party’s filibuster powers with one controversial step.
With that single move, Reid has helped Obama protect his agenda, as the president will have a better chance at filling judicial and administrative posts with allies. It could end up being the most significant development of Obama’s second term.
White House allies say Reid is the main reason Obama has had any kind of success in Congress.
The best part of Obama’s year came during the government shutdown, when Republicans imploded in the face of a united Senate Democratic conference held together by a resolved Reid.
That unity has frayed over worries about ObamaCare’s troubled rollout, as some vulnerable Senate Democrats have called for changes to the law.
Obama will have to rely on Reid to calm jittery members in the months ahead to preserve party unity, but the last year should raise his confidence that Reid will be able to do it.
3) The House GOP
Obama rants about how those people at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue—particularly House Republicans-- always get in the way of his agenda. But he has to be thankful for them in some respect.
After all, as one top Democrat put it, “When you're having the kind of year he's having, it helps that someone is having a worse year.”
Or as one former senior administration official put it, “No matter what missteps the White House makes, the GOP does one better. They always misstep, always overreach and [House Speaker] John Boehner is never quite able to capitalize.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month showed Obama's approval rating had dropped to 39 percent, his lowest rating since taking office. But a Gallup poll showed that Congress's approval rating came in at a historic low: 9 percent.
4) Midterm Elections being one year away
Talk to any Democrat—or more specifically any White House official-- and they will all tell you that the rollout of the healthcare law was a disaster. Some will go as far as saying it’s the “ultimate nightmare.”
That makes the White House grateful the midterm elections aren’t right around the corner, but nearly a year away.
“If the mid-term elections were a month away, or even six months away, I’d be peeing myself right now,” said one former senior administration official.
Democrats and the White House have nearly a year before voters go to the polls, which gives them time to protect their vulnerable members and the critical Senate majority.
If Dems lose that majority, Obama will face former President George W. Bush’s predicament of facing two chambers held by his rival party in his final two years in office.