Obama enters the 'fourth quarter'

 

Entering what he himself calls the “fourth quarter” of his term, President Obama is starting to look at the scoreboard.

Declaring himself “energized” and “excited” by what lies ahead, Obama began his end-of-year press conference with a detour into legacy as he sought to build the case that the country should "enter into the new year with renewed confidence that America's making significant strides where it counts."

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The past 12 months were bruising for Obama, with his party badly beaten on Election Day and a series of international crises and domestic policy missteps that battered his approval ratings.

But a flurry of good economic news, a $1.1 trillion budget deal, and a series of executive actions that have energized his liberal base all left the president in a chipper mood — and eager to talk about what he thinks he’s achieved.

The president repeatedly argued that 2014 had been a "breakthrough year" for the country as he prepared to jet off for a prolonged Hawaiian vacation.

"The six years since the [economic] crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody's part," Obama said. "But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we've accomplished: more jobs, more people insured, a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy. 

"Take any metric that you want, America's resurgence is real. We are better off."

The White House has increasingly made moves to promote the president's legacy in recent weeks, with the release of multiple reports touting recent economic gains.

A senior administration official told The Hill earlier this month that economic messaging "will be embedded in everything we do" and "a major part of the story we'll be telling about the past eight years."

The problem for the White House is that public opinion is not yet on its side.

A George Washington University Battleground poll released this week found that 56 percent believed economic conditions were either poor or getting worse. More than three-quarters of survey respondents said they're very or somewhat worried about the current economic climate.

Obama seemed to suggest toward the end of his remarks that the media was partly to blame, telling reporters that he knew their jobs were "to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen, and the crises that look like they're popping."

"But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better," Obama saying, adding that his hope for the new year is that the country could "generate some confidence."

Obama also seemed hopeful that he could reset his oft-strained relationship with lawmakers in the coming year despite the Republican takeover of Congress.

"I'm being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government's working better and smarter," Obama said. "We're gonna disagree on some things, but there are gonna be areas of agreement, and we've gotta be able to make that happen."

The president said he expects staff-level discussions with Republican leaders in the coming weeks about a potential framework for corporate tax reform, an area where the White House argues there is the potential to generate new funding for infrastructure.

He declared he was "excited about the prospects for the next couple of years."

Still, the press conference offered reminders of Obama’s looming lame-duck status, and the potential for new crises to permanently sap his power and influence as attention turns to the 2016 presidential race.

He acknowledged the final two years could find him on defense, with Republicans likely to target ObamaCare, consumer protection laws and immigration executive actions. He said he would have to "take into account the issues that they care about."

Still, Obama repeatedly insisted he was "not going to be stopping," a point that was reiterated by ally Organizing for Action, which sent an email under his name titled, “I’m not done.”

"My presidency is entering the fourth quarter," Obama said. "Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. And I'm looking forward to it."